Wastin’ Away in Beerville

By Joni Williams


Is it five o’clock yet?  Pay no mind to your phone or watch—it’s always five o’clock somewhere. And that somewhere is Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in HarborWalk Village. The idea here is to party like it’s quittin’ time all day starting at 11 a.m. and well into the night—at least until 10 or later, if there’s a crowd.


When the Destin Seafood Festival rolls around, you can get a double dose of Margaritaville. Besides the permanent location on the harbor, they’ll also be hosting a grab-and-go booth in its midst, offering their much adored fish tacos and jambalaya along with a choice of—what else?—margaritas.


Still, if you’d rather be wastin’ away in Beerville, simply walk a few extra steps over to the huge, unmissable cafe, done up in the bright colors of an Aloha shirt, and home to one of the most glorious waterfront views to be found on the harbor.


Don’t be fooled by its reputation as a tourist trap. Margaritaville actually has a very good selection of brews, on tap and in bottles, as well as a budget-friendly weekday Happy Hour from 4 to 7 p.m., with draft beer starting at three bucks. But then again, would we expect anything less from the namesake of a legendary trop-rock performer who famously sang about “cold draft beer” and even composed an affectionate one-minute ode to Corona?


These days, Buffett’s all hooked up with Landshark, having parted ways with the Corona sponsorship nearly 10 years ago. So it’s no surprise to find Landshark is the beer of choice here, with its name plastered across Adirondack chairs and the top story bar named in its honor. It’s also used in food prep descriptions and tops the beer list here.


Brewed in not-too-distant Jacksonville, the lager is a lovely traditional golden and has a malty, inoffensive taste. But there are better beers to be had at Margaritaville (sorry, Mr. Buffett), including a couple all-time faves. And those would be Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, a clean tasting, thirst quenching twist of citrus that goes down smooth, and the Dogish Head 60 Minute Ale, appropriately caramelly, but not too hoppy or bitter.


With a selection that includes Goose Island 312, Fat Tire and local fave 30A Beach Blonde, you almost can’t go wrong with your picks. If you want to stick to the tried-and-true, they also offer Bud, Miller, Mich, Heineken, Stella, PBR, Angry Orchard and Yuengling. That’s a lot of beers for a place specializing in margaritas and boat drinks, and a better-than-average selection for what is actually a corporate-owned franchise location.


That’s not to say they don’t offer food. They do, and lots of it, like coconut shrimp and buttermilk battered chicken. You were expecting beer batter? Just opt for the fish and chips, made with none other than Buffett’s beloved Landshark. Though you won’t find any bar munchies per se, there are plenty of appetizers that will suffice, like the Asiago Crab Dip with crostini or Drunken Shrimp, sautéed in tequila, butter and lime. And one huge pile of Lava Nachos is enough for brew crew a deux, maybe even three.


Food, drink and glorious view aside, the best part of Margaritaville just might be the friendly staff. When we were, there they were prompt, knowledgeable and went out of their way to be helpful. It’s understandable why this is a favorite hot spot of tourists—and maybe soon for locals, too.

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