Many people think of Valparaiso as that “blink and you’ll miss it” town, passed through on the way to Eglin’s East Gate. But locals know it truly is a gorgeous paradise with waterfront parks, fishing piers and public boat launches. Val-P also hosts glorious sunsets over the bayou.
As if these weren’t reasons reason enough to visit, we’ve found one more—Doc’s Oyster Bar.
Tucked directly behind the Compass Rose, Doc’s is a bayou-fronted shanty offering superb, quick eats and some of the friendliest staff we’ve ever met. Plus they have a surprisingly extensive beer list, as well as top-notch wines and specialty cocktails.
Besides indoor seating and an outdoor deck poised directly above the water, there’s a sweet, garden-like seating area almost hidden on the lower level. Date night, anyone? No need to go Dutch out of fear of a high bill, either, as the food menu here is affordable. Fresh, raw oysters are $12.99 a dozen or $8.99 for a half. Specialty oysters can be had for $9.99 and include gourmet twists such as black and blue, grilled, or “Doc-A-Feller” (not Rockefeller, mind you) with cream cheese, spinach and artichokes.
Despite their name, they offer a wide range of eats such as po’boys, fish tacos, wings and plenty of munchies. Even if you’re not hungry when you arrive, the tantalizing smell wafting out of the kitchen may be too tempting to resist. We weren’t there five minutes before we caved and ordered a generous mound of their outrageously tasty smoked tuna dip.
Of course, we knocked back a few brews, too, starting with the lovely, deep golden Floridian by Funky Buddha, perfect for watching a neon sunset melt into the bayou. Fruity and sparked with clove, there’s enough banana and malt to keep it ever-so-slightly sweet, and enough hops for balance. Though it’s unfiltered, it didn’t appear hazy or heavily sedimented. Not a fan of wheat beer? You may take a shining to this one, due to its interesting, almost IPA-like flavor notes.
We switched to the oh-so-easy-to-drink Props Blonde Bomber that made an oh-so-good pairing with the smoked tuna dip, which we scarfed down to the very last speck. So much for not being hungry. Doc’s smokes their seafood and meats onsite, and you can taste the delicious difference.
Truth is, they had us at hello. That’s when we got a look at the beer lists and realized a small town location does not equal small beer selection. Doc’s offers a well-rounded variety of domestics, imports and local brews bottled and on tap, including local faves like Yuengling, Red Stripe, Grayton, Stella Artois and Corona, as well as the classics—Bud, Miller, PBR and Coors.
Draft beer choices include Blue Moon Belgian White and Sam Adams’ newbie, Hopscape, besides distinguished crafts like Lazy Magnolia, Funky Buddha and Highland. But the customer faves here, we’re told, are the locally brewed Props Blonde Bomber and Flying Coffin IPA.
The daily Happy Hour will save you a buck on drafts, three on wine. Mixed drinks are discounted $2.50 and offers some original libations, like Sex on Tom’s Bayou (not the beach), made with peach schnapps; and our top pick, their version of the Moscow Mule using ginger beer as a base.
On weekends, there’s no-cover live music featuring the likes of Rusty Hammerstrom, BT Turner and other local artists. All this and a waterfront view, too. Don’t blink, and don’t miss it. Doc’s Oyster Bar & Grill is worth a trip to Val-P with eyes wide open.
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