My family ate at Brotula’s Seafood House on a weeknight. I figured it would be easier to park. I failed to take into account the date, May 5. That’s the National Day of Prayer, and also the Blessing of the Fleet at Destin Harbor—exactly where Brotula’s is located. The parking lot was all but full, but we found a place.
Fortunately, Brotula’s is a big restaurant, and while the outdoor patio was pretty well occupied with diners watching the boats, we got a very good table inside, with an excellent view of the dining room and bar.
Brotula’s ceilings and wood-paneled walls are high, there are two levels of seating, a mini-dining room to the side, and a large bar with plenty of seats. The walls are decorated with posters, photos and nautical bric-a-brac. There’s plenty of window-view and it’s all very breezy.
The staff is large, free ranging, and happy to be of help. Our server probably had kids of his own, because he and my daughter Grace (the Tiny Diner) hit it off immediately, sealing the deal with crayons and a kids menu to use them on.
The menu offers appetizers, soup and salads, oysters, burgers and sandwiches, fried Gulf Coast choices, house specialties, Southern specialties, and a “build-your-own boil” option.
The starter was easy—fried calamari, which we had not ordered in a while (I know we get it a lot, but we like it a lot). The serving is plenty for two, with the tender rings and tentacles coated in a very crunchy, rather salty batter that stood up very well to the tangy aioli dip. TD thought it was chicken, a mistake our server diplomatically did not correct, which confirmed for me he had kids of his own.
Other app choices are fried pickles, smoked tuna dip, soft pretzels, stuffed portabella, sauteed mussels, garlic bread, fried crab claws, loaded fries, pimento fritters, fried green tomatoes and lobster/spinach dip.
TD ordered fried shrimp from the kids’ menu and my wife got Creole crusted grouper with cheese grits and asparagus. I ordered a custom boil—blue mussels and a pound of shrimp in a Deep South mustard and beer boil, house (“bro spice”) seasoning and drawn butter. On the side I got French fries and grilled asparagus.
Other possibilities for the boils are oysters, royal red shrimp, lobster tail, and Dungeness, Alaskan snow or King crab. You can order any (or all) of the choices with assorted seasonings and sides.
While we waited and ate our squid, TD flagged down a passing pirate named Captain Jack, who informed her that yes, his cutlass was real, and crafted her a blue balloon bunny at tableside. The old salt accepted donations for an animal rescue service. TD also scampered out onto the patio (with Daddy in pursuit) to watch the last of the newly blessed boats parade past the docks.
The food arrived, and I immediately began calculating how many to-go boxes we’d need. I had ordered a pound each of the mussels and shrimp, and though I came hungry I wasn’t sure I would get through it all, even sharing with my wife (shrimp only, she forgoes mussels). The fries, which looked fresh cut, were in quantity too. Even TD’s kid portion of large fried shrimp looked like a respectable lunch-sized adult serving. We dug in, myself going through several napkins.
The Creole crusted grouper came in a thick chunk, meaty and juicy, with a savory crust and a pile of creamy, cheesy and peppery grits. I helped my wife finish. Our asparagus spears (first of the season for us) had those char-grill marks I find personally irresistible.
My seafood boil was perfectly seasoned, the mussels plump and not tough (easy to do with mussels). I think the peel-on shrimp was replicating—the more I ate, the more there was. I managed to finish. Some of TD’s shrimp and fries went home.
Other menu choices include oysters raw and cooked, burgers, po’ boys, tacos, fish sandwich, fried seafood combos, fish of the day (swordfish that night), Southern red snapper, and a daily Captain’s Choice. There’s also scampi pasta, shrimp and grits, grilled chicken, country fried steak, and a cowboy cut ribeye.
Dessert choices were key lime pie, bread pudding, or brownie sundae. All sounded good, but we had managed to eat down to one to-go box, so we gathered the shreds of the (burst) blue bunny and headed home. We’d love to come back.
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