Dewey Destin's then and now

Savannah Vasquez
Today customers of Dewey Destin's Seafood Restaurant dine on the docks that were built using pilings from the old Destin bridge in the 1930s.

Although the city of Destin is only 31 years old, residents of the area date back to the mid-1800s.

One of the first family groups to be living and working in the Destin area were of course the city’s namesakes, the Destins.

There are still several Destins living in the city and one of the most well known is Dewey Destin, current Oka-loosa County School Board member and owner of two Dewey Destin’s seafood restaurants, one on the harbor and one on the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Although the business itself is only 15 years old, both buildings that house Dewey Destin’s restaurants have a rich history in the area.

“We opened Dewey Destin’s on the bay as a restaurant in 2001, but before that it was the unloading dock where the family had unloaded their fishing boats dating back to the 1800s,” Destin said. “We used to wholesale and process fish and retail bait products there. My grandfather, great grandfather and great-great grandfather unloaded their fish there and would take the fish down to Pensacola and sell it.”

Video of Dewey's by the Bay

Destin said that in 2001, Florida banned the net fishing industry, making the practices that he and his family had used for more than 100 years no longer relevant, thus he decided to go in to the restaurant business.

“We were happy in the fishing business but the state of Florida banned the fishing we had been doing for hun-dreds of years, so we just converted it over to Dewey’s on the bay and it’s been good for us,” he said. “It’s been a good source of income for us, but it’s not as fun fishing!”

Today, Dewey Destin’s on the bay is a casual outdoor dining experience where customers can park their cars from land or anchor their boats from the water and walk up on the dock and grab some fresh, local seafood while over-looking the Choctawhatchee Bay.

“We use local commercial fish markets, Ariel Seafoods Inc. and Harbor Docks, and we feature whatever happens to be available: grouper, snapper, triggerfish and amberjack,” Destin said naming a few species he offers throughout the year. “I usually go once or twice a week on fish-buying expeditions for the shrimp and oysters, we get it all between Apalachicola and Bayou La Batre, Alabama.”

When asked what the most popular menu item is, Destin said it’s surprisingly not fish.

“Fried shrimp and grilled shrimp will win hands down,” he said.

As for Dewey Destin’s Harborside Restaurant, which opened on Valentine’s Day in 2009, the building dates back to an old homestead turned restaurant by Destin’s extended family.

“If you count my extended family, the Marlers and Shirahs and all those folks, we are among the first to be in the restaurant business in Destin,” he said. “The Blue Room restaurant was one of the first restaurants in Destin and was where our Dewey’s Harborside is today.”

Destin explained that the Blue Room was first opened in the late 1950s or early 1960s and was run by the Marler family. Destin converted it into Dewey Destin’s Harborside Restaurant in 2009, and still has several family mem-bers working for him today.

As a matter of fact, the newest addition to Destin’s restaurant group is his sons Parker and Grant’s food truck Dewey’s New Orleans Style Snowballs.

“People don’t really understand the difference between a regular snow cone and a New Orleans-style snowball un-til they have tried one,” said Parker. “We make all of our syrups in-house using 100 percent Louisiana-grown sugar cane and some of them come stuffed with ice cream or cheese cake.”

Dewey Destin’s Bayside Restaurant and Dewey’s New Orleans Style Snowballs are located at 9 Calhoun Avenue along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Restaurant hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call 837-7575 for more information.

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