Food for fighters: Warrior Beach Retreat participants thank Destin

Michelle Simpson, R&R at the Retreat
While serving with Special Operations in Afghanistan, Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Pitts was injured in the line of duty. His injuries consist of hearing loss in both ears (wears hearing aids), permanent damage to right leg (wears large carbon fiber brace during waking hours), traumatic brain injury, and PTSD. His back, neck, and shoulder on the right side were also injured. “We did a terrible job taking pictures of ourselves with all the seagulls, sunsets and food to photograph,” his wife Michelle Simpson. “You are fortunate to have such a great town!”

I wanted to write to highlight a group of restaurants that went above and beyond this past weekend.  I was a caregiver accompanying my husband, a disabled veteran, to the Warrior Beach Retreat.  The city of Destin was beyond accommodating and went out of their way to make us feel welcomed.  The Henderson Park Inn Bed & Breakfast took great care of us and made us feel very special.

No matter where we ate, time after time, local restaurants created special menus, added extra touches and thanked us over and over again for our service.   

I am not sure if you have an “Eat Local” movement in Destin, but if not, you should!  These restaurants showcased the best of the area, freshest seafood and ridiculously good key lime pie  — everywhere.  SO MUCH KEY LIME PIE! 

I know that chain restaurants may be owned locally but the quality and freshness of their meals cannot compare to the local area restaurants. Staying in Destin three days, eat three meals at local places! These are the places that preserve the history and culture of the city of Destin and consistently provided both memorable dishes and interactions that will make us return again and again over the years.

The amazing meals we had were at the following locations:

Beach Walk Café: Chef John Sallman is a genius and having his take on Shrimp and Grits should be on your bucket list!  The staff brought my husband a dessert out with a candle for an impromptu birthday celebration that made the night even more memorable. 

Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House: This place has a great take on southern classics and does a great job with crafting “foodie” touches that take them up a notch. The Pig and The Pickle might be the best sandwich ever invented. These guys put us around the Christmas tree and added patriotic ornaments in our honor.  It was just lovely! 

Dewey Destin’s: A jewel on the harbor, this is a true Destin history landmark!  So many seafood choices and when I say their hushpuppies are literally life changing, I mean your life with never be the same when you eat one!  ALSO:  PIE. 

Pompano Joe’s: Order the Coral Reef Nachos and prepare to be amazed!  While technically an appetizer, this dish is enough for dinner — and breakfast!

Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant: The grilled shrimp here were amazing but I will be honest, it was all about Mike.  Mike got me to do something CRAZY like ordering ice tea and pie. Ask to sit in Mike’s section. 

Crab Trap: Coolest chalkboard art I have ever seen and according to my husband, their Blue Crab Claws Your Way broiled in garlic-basil butter are the best in town!  These guys don’t have a Twitter but they should call me cause I need sauce recipes.

Marlin Grill: Based on reviews I had read, I ordered the Petite Filet (medium) and I was not disappointed.  Hands down the best steak I have ever had!  The chef went the extra mile by plating desserts with special messages to our veterans, which was very touching. 

Thank you Destin for such a beautiful weekend and for hosting Warrior Beach Retreat.  If you need someone to come back and eat more food, let me know!

Michelle Simpson and her husband Kevin live in Tallahassee but attended the recent Warrior Beach Retreat at Henderson Park Inn.

More about Warrior Beach Retreat

I wanted to thank your community for the generosity they have once again shown for our severely combat wounded warriors and their spouses. A total of six couples spent five days, Dec. 5-9 at the beautiful Henderson Park Bed and Breakfast Inn. This is the third year the Inn has hosted our nations finest.

Numerous restaurants provided delicious meals for the couples during their stay.

My husband and I began Warrior Beach Retreat a little over four years ago when our son Sgt. Joshua Cope was severely wounded by an IED blast in Baghdad, Iraq. He lost both legs above the knee and also wounded his hands.

Twice a year in Panama City Beach we invite a total of 50 warriors and spouses or caregivers for seven days for a time of hope and healing. These warriors come from all across the U.S.A. to our area. We also do the retreat in Destin Florida for five days in December.

We focus also on the caregiver as we feel they are the unsung heroes of war. Our son and his wife have three children and are doing well but it has been a journey.... When a soldier goes to war a family goes to war.

Our website is We are a local Northwest Florida charity, but are in no way affiliated with the Wounded Warrior Project.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas knowing you have played a large part to bring hope and healing to couples that have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy.

Linda Cope


Warrior Beach Retreat — Where Heroes Gather