It was the final weekend before Memorial Day, and we wanted to get in at LuLu’s Destin before the summer season brought the lines and the permanent No Mo’ Parking signs. LuLu’s is positioned on the bay, adjacent to that vast storehouse of grownup fantasies called Legendary Marina. As we crossed the Mid-Bay Bridge south, we looked through the massive marina doors at rows of exquisite watercraft, stacked and ready to be rolled out. It was mouth-watering, and they weren’t even serving food there.
Lulu’s, however, was. It’s a big place, airy and roomy, with high ceilings, a bar-in-the-round, and two full-sized dining areas, one inside and one on a covered patio overlooking a mini-beach. There’s lots of wood and exposed beams; functional-chic lighting adds to a clean, modern look. There’s A/C and fans, but when the panels are opened onto the water, there’s a circulating breeze that gives the whole restaurant a breath of fresh air. We sat indoors (less direct sun) at a table that gave us a good view.
I was with my wife and our daughter Grace, the Tiny Diner. The sight of LuLu’s private little beach with its bright colored benches and a crate of toys available for the playing had TD on chair’s edge from the beginning. It was with difficulty that we persuaded her to sit and decide what she wanted.
LuLu’s offers starters, bar snacks, salads, baskets, burgers, sandwiches, and house specialties. They have menus catering to people with allergies, as well as soy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, shellfish-free and seafood-free options.
None of the above applied to my family, so we started with the L.A. (Lower Alabama) Caviar—black-eyed peas in balsamic vinaigrette, with chopped onions and sweet peppers. It’s a salad, really, with a cool sweet-and-sour tang, and the just-tender peas give it substance. They serve it with saltines for dipping, but you can just spoon it up.
Other starters include crab claws, tortilla chips, guacamole, smoked tuna dip, onion rings, peel-and-eat shrimp, fried okra, quesadillas, seafood gumbo, chicken fingers, nachos, and the “Crazy Sista” (LuLu’s last name is Buffett, in case you did not know) crab toast. Plenty of good bar options there.
We ordered the main course. TD got her usual grilled cheese with fruit. My wife chose a grilled jerk chicken sandwich, and I ordered a half-and-half seafood basket of fried oysters and grilled triggerfish.
As I promised TD, after we ordered I accompanied her outside to the beach. It was a bright, hot day, but we had not brought sunblock. Fortunately LuLu’s provides sunblock for the use of little customers. Nice. She played with the other kids, got too close to the water, and asked rapid-fire questions, sometimes even pausing to hear the answers.
The food came, which necessitated a minor struggle to get TD from beach to table. She wasn’t overjoyed, but did kick the sand off her little flip-flops before sitting down.
I got six plump oysters, battered crisp, hot and juicy, with a burst of oystery brine when I bit into them. The bronzed trigger portion was generous and slightly spicy, a good accompaniment to the fried stuff, which included two tasty jalapeno hushpuppies. I took most of the French fries home.
My wife’s jerk chicken was topped with grilled pineapple and Swiss cheese. The seasoning was slightly hot, but with a generous blend of the sweeter spices as well.
Other choices included shrimp, mahi and fried crab claw baskets, a pimento cheeseburger, “Crazy Sista” seasoned burger, fried green tomato BLT, mahi sandwich, pulled pork sandwich, snapper sandwich, assorted po’boys, a crab melt, tacos, shrimp and grits, and a Big Fry seafood combo basket for two. There are also dinner salads.
The dessert menu features key lime pie, brownie sundae and a bread pudding made with Krispy Kreme. We’ll have to come back for those, and donut pudding does sound attractive. Of course the bartenders can blend up all kinds of tropical goodies for before, during and after dinner.
I was not sure what to expect at LuLu’s, whether there would be a lot of touristy gimmicks and pressure to buy “souvenirs,” etc. There was not, though there is a gift shop near the entrance that you don’t have to pass through to get to the tables. Our server Sean was quiet, friendly and very polite, keeping things cleared and refilled. It was very relaxing and laid-back, an ideal way to spend what was probably the last accessible Saturday in Destin.
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