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Destin Diner —­ Where Diner Meets Café

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Last spring I had a sneak preview of what would become Destin Diner. I spent an hour inside the big shiny silver building at the corner of 98 and Airport Road, watching Olivier Petit and a crew of artisans assemble a patchwork of wood, tile, metal and artwork into an establishment fit to set before the public.


I missed the official opening, and lost track of Destin Diner since then, figuring I’d get there when I got there. Recently I saw a sign that it was open Wednesdays through Sundays, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. I got curious all over again about how Petit and company had fit all the pieces together. My family and I ate at Destin Diner on a recent weekend.


Once inside, the first thing one sees is the bar. Parallel to the bar is a dining area of booths and tables. To the right, and hooking to the left again is another dining area, with booths. The color scheme is silver, red and black, sleek, cushy and plush, but with a brighter and slightly more airy feel than, say, Louis Louis or the Red Bar. The walls are still jam-packed with seemingly random photos, prints, movie and music memorabilia, and posters in multiple languages.


On my visit last year I recall wondering where they were going to place a signed Madonna album and photo. She’s in the unisex restroom, making eyes at Abraham Lincoln. Figures.


The menu offers breakfast and lunch, and I was told that breakfast could be ordered the whole time, though it is possible that some breakfast items might run out by noon.


My wife and I wanted lunch, but our daughter Grace (the Tiny Diner) was inclined to breakfast. Like the regular menu, the kids’ menu has breakfast and lunch—pancakes with add-ons, eggs, waffles, chicken fingers, grilled cheese, BLT and peanut butter and jelly. TD ordered scrambled eggs with a side of cheese grits.


My wife ordered a pane chicken sandwich, and I chose a grilled mahi sandwich. Both came with fries, but cole slaw, potato salad or chips are also available as sides.


We got there early enough to avoid either a morning or noon rush. I observed a few patrons lingering at their booths or tables, reading, listening to the eclectic house music mix, or just conversing. The decor creates an upscale diner vibe, but there’s also an unhurried cafe atmosphere that is helped along by the comfort of the seats. I noticed the booths appeared to be slightly larger-sized, and the tabletops are roomy—TD likes to spread out her stuff a little, wherever she sits.


The food arrived. The pane chicken is a lightly battered and crusted chicken breast, crisp fried and served on a toasted bun with assorted garnishes. It’s a pretty simple dish, but Destin Diner does it just right—hot, tender and greaseless.


Grilled mahi is the unofficial official sandwich of Destin, and the less fussed-with it is, the better. Grilling brings out the dense, almost steak-like qualities of the fish, and all you need is lettuce, tomato, and a few drops of pepper sauce to complete the experience. Fries help. Always.


I didn’t taste TD’s eggs, but they looked done right. The cheese grits struck the perfect balance between thick and thin. They even tasted good eaten later, no small trick for grits.


Other breakfast options are egg and meat combinations featuring ham, bacon, sausage, pork chops, and both sirloin and chicken fried steak, egg and bean burritos, Mexican, chorizo, seafood, Western and veggie omelets, pancakes, Belgian waffles, biscuits and French toast.


For lunch there’s meat loaf, pork chops, chicken fried steak, hamburger options, shrimp po’boy, tuna or patty melt, BLT, grilled cheese, quesadilla, and roast beef, turkey or ham and cheese sandwiches. Bloody Marys and Mimosas are served with both breakfast and lunch. There’s a full bar, so maybe you could ask for something stronger.


The menu offers two desserts – key lime pie and home made bread pudding. They were out of the pie that day, and we weren’t in the mood for bread pudding, so we skipped. I’ve had both desserts at some of the other Petit family restaurants, and I can vouch for both.


Destin Diner looks to be set up for dinner. If you visit the website you’ll see an advisory to “check back for seasonal changes.” Summer is coming, which could bring subject matter for another visit. Hope so.


1083 U.S. 98 East
Hours: Open Wed.-Sun., 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Reservations: Not Necessary
Children’s Menu: Yes
Dress: Casual
Currently serving breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday, Destin Diner combines a sleek diner vibe and an unhurried cafe atmosphere, with a mix of local favorites and diner classics. Waffles, pancakes, egg and meat combos, pork chops, meat loaf, po’boys, burgers and chicken fried steak are among the many options. Full bar, $3-13.
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