Love the water? If you’re visiting or live in the area, chances are good you said yes. But if you think the Gulf is the only game in town, you’re missing out. Travel just a few miles in any direction from the beach and you’ll find bays and bayous so beautiful, you’ll feel like you’re riding through a real-life postcard.
Nowhere is this truer than where Highways 85 and 20 intersect in Niceville. Down the hill from the street front’s not-so-scenic marina warehouse and dry-docked boats is a hidden waterfront paradise, offering a truly spectacular view. And it’s fronted by a fabulous restaurant run by an equally fabulous chef, Dan Pettis’ Fuel at North Light.
But wait, there’s more. Said restaurant also has a separate bar about as far away from a redneck dive as you can get (not that we don’t love a good dive, mind you). The tasteful decor includes an innovative garage-style door that can be opened to allow mingling of indoor and outdoor seating, and a supersized view of the water. The libations served here are just as innovative and on trend, with offerings of smoke- and herb-infused craft cocktails, or whipped up with egg whites.
Yes, egg whites. We don’t know about you, but that’s a high priority on our list of drinks we gotta try soon.
But on this visit, we were enticed by what may be Boggy’s best beer selection, with a good chunk of them hailing from Northern Florida or nearby. Faves here include Oyster City’s Hooter Brown, Props’ Flying Coffin and Fairhope Brewing’s Therefore I Amber. We were especially thrilled to see Ye Olde Brothers included on the beer list as their brews are at the top of our all-time faves list. The long drive to their Navarre brewpub, not so much.
Speaking of brewpubs, Niceville actually has one owned by two military veteran hopheads, 3rd Planet Brewing, that we’ve been wanting to try for months. And now the wait is over. Though we still haven’t made it to their pub on Partin Drive to test all 10 or 12 of their brews, Fuel currently taps 3rd Planet’s Bramber, an interesting hybrid of amber and brown ales that’s packing the very best qualities of each.
Dark but not too dark and sweet but not too sweet, this brew manages to tickle with plenty of contrasting flavors—earthy, kind of spicy with an undertone of malty sweetness—all superbly balanced. And smooth. It’s this incredible smoothness that makes it so super-easy to drink. We can see ourselves reaching for it, even in the hottest, thirstiest months. We’re definitely looking for more from this Boggy brewer.
Other selections include Funky Buddha’s Floridian and Hop Gun IPA, Bluepoint’s Toasted Lager, Breckenridge’s Vanilla Porter as well as what has become a local staple, Grayton’s Beach Blonde ale.
But enough about the brews. Let’s talk about the eats. They’ve definitely got ‘em. And we don’t mean just full-on meals, either, though Chef Dan serves up luscious entrees (just reading one of his menus is enough to bring on a drool fest). He also excels at small plates and munchies, such as Fuel’s signature Garlic Parmesan fries, tapas, and jerk wings. If you’re looking for a bargain, hit them up from 3 to 7 during happy hour when they’re priced at five bucks and a whole pound of peel-and-eat shrimp will only set you back 16.
Draft crafts and premiums are also only five bucks, and bottled beers like Stella go for $3.50. The surrounding water view is free, though it’s easily worth a million or so bucks.
Oddly enough, more than a few places have moved in—and, almost as quickly, out—of the location in the past few years, including one of our all-time favorite Boggy hotspots, Tucker Duke’s. We’re guessing most folks don’t realize there’s a magnificent waterfront down that hill. But given all it has to offer, maybe it’s time they found out.
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