If there’s one thing Destin is known for, it’s fishing and with that comes the obvious question: Where in Destin can you get fresh Gulf fish and seafood to cook yourself?
There are three local seafood markets in Destin that offer everything you can imagine from whole fish, to shell fish, to side dishes and even steaks. Let’s delve into what each place has to offer, and find out some Destin history along the way.
Destin Ice Seafood Market & Deli
In 1973, a humble ice market owned by one of the founding families of Destin, the Melvin’s, opened it’s doors. Today, Destin Ice Seafood Market & Deli has become a staple destination for both locals and visitors and holds a lot of history within it’s walls.
“We started as an ice house, then it grew to have fish,” said James Duff, general manager for Destin Ice. “Now we offer everything from caviar to crab meat, sea scallops, oysters and I always carry somewhere between 12 to 15 fish on my line at all times.”
Just look for the red snapper atop the sign on U.S. Highway 98 and you will find your way to Destin Ice Seafood Market & Deli. Duff added a little known fact about the iconic fish sign – there’s a head inside the mouth.
“It was just a novelty,” he laughed when asked why a head was placed in the fish. “We used to say it was Billy Sexton’s head (of Sexton’s Seafood Market).”
In 2016, the fish sign was refurbished and the head inside got an identity. Artist Bud Schweickert fashioned it to resemble the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.
Duff said one thing that makes Destin Ice Seafood Market & Deli unique is the option to pack and ship your own catch.
"We pack and vacuum seal fish for local charters and ship it for them," Duff said. "I do a lot of the shipping for the charter boats anywhere from Alaska to New York."
Destin Ice Seafood Market & Deli is located at 663 Harbor Blvd. For more information, visit www.destinice.com or call 850-837-8333.
Sexton's Seafood Market
Billy Sexton opened Sexton's Seafood Market in 1978 back when times were simpler in Destin.
"It was a metal building with an old trailer in the back and woods around it," employee Kathy Wagner said. "I grew up working here, it's still family owned and operated."
Now owned by Mary Ann Sexton, generations of customers, employees and fishermen recognize Sexton's as a Destin tradition.
"One of our advantages is that we have been here so long, we have bought from the same families for generations of fishermen," Wagner said. "It's a tradition. Sexton's is a tradition. We have people coming in here saying their parents and grandparents come here - it's a generational thing."
General Manager Jon Martin said Sexton's is known for it's freshness and it's quality.
"It's all hand-picked and locally caught," Martin said. "We just want the top-notch quality stuff, so we go down to the boat and hand-pick what we want."
As for selection, Sexton's has shrimp, whole fish, and fillets and often offers crab legs and other shell fish. But unlike other local seafood markets, Sexton does not steam or make any other side dishes.
"We just do it old fashioned," said Wagner.
Another old-fashioned quirk is the cash-only policy, but Martin said that is how the quality seafood remains so affordable.
"That's another reason we can keep the prices low," he said. "We are proud of what we do and thankful we are able to keep this going from generation to generation."
Sexton's Seafood Market is located at 601 Harbor Blvd. For more information, visit www.sextonsseafoodmarket.com or call 850-837-3040.
Blalock Seafood & Specialty Market
Blalock Seafood & Specialty Market may be the newest kids on the block, but this family-owned business brings quality product and personal service to match their counterparts.
“We opened up in April of 2011, but my family owns two other stores in Alabama with the first one in Orange Beach being over 20 years old now,” said owner Shane Blalock.
Shane and his wife Michelle run the Destin location and personally serve customers on a daily basis.
“My uncle decided he wanted to expand to Florida, and Destin was the best prospect so he offered me and my wife to come run it,” he said.
When it comes to product, Blalock offers all of their fish filleted and ready to place on the grill.
“Of course we carry all the fresh, local caught shrimp and fish,” Shane said. “We can steam shrimp and crab legs, and have sides of corn and potatoes and sausage."
The couple added that if seafood is not your style, they also offer hand-cut Angus beef, breaded chicken fingers, and stuffed chickens.
Blalock Seafood & Specialty Market is located at 1004 Highway 98 East. For more information, visit www.blalockseafooddestin.com or call 850-460-2933.