For whatever reason, people love the idea of change, especially when a new year is approaching. Come January, magazines and marketers start pushing all kinds of transformational diets, exercise routines and investment strategies for a Happy New You. But we think there’s something to be said for the tried and true, especially when it comes to local hotspots.
One of our all-time favorites is McGuire’s Irish Pub, where we’ve been going since as long as we can remember. And that precedes the location in Destin—the original is in Pensacola. They started out as a restaurant with well-prepared food that’s reasonably priced for the generous bounty they serve. And after all these years—decades, actually—this hasn’t changed. And sometimes staying the same is sometimes a very good thing.
Most importantly, at least to a family of multi-generational beer connoisseurs, they once were the only game in town when it came to in-house brews. They were exceptionally good back then and are just as good now with plenty of friendly local competition.
That said, there has been one major change to the Destin location that at first was a wee bit mind blowing. A few years ago, they added Vinnie McGuire’s, a separate eatery next door specializing in artisan pizza. Irish pizza? How in the world can that work? At least that’s what we were wondering as we envisioned some kind of gravy laden shepherd’s pie as an Irish style pizza.
And then we tried it. Mind blown for the second time. Only this time it was because the pizza here is outrageously good. It’s a completely customizable Italian-style pie that begins as either a small or large with thick or thin crust. You can then choose red or white sauce and pick from a selection of cheeses and toppings ranging from classics like mozzarella, sausage and pepperoni to straight up gourmet items like goat cheese, artichoke hearts and smoked prime rib. Pies are $15 and $20 and come with three toppings. Additional toppings are a dollar each. Cheese-only pizzas are $12 and $15.
Bar selections include picturesque bottles of straw-covered Chianti as well as some killer Italian-inspired drinks like the vodka and peach-Schnapps infused Goodfella and the Godfather, a buzzy, keep-the-glass cocktail made with 151 rum and amaretto.
As tempting as they were, we still go for the brews because McGuire’s makes some of the very best on the coast—always has and probably always will. Though their hearty, rib-stickin’ stout has long been our go-to brew, we were able to sample a couple of their seasonals last time we were there. One of them was a blueberry ale which we almost never like. This one, however, was delish—the best blueberry ale we’ve ever had. The flavor is subtle yet distinctly blueberry and, most of all, authentic and fresh.
If you hurry, you might be able to catch the last of another seasonal, their mildly spicy, amber-colored Christmas ale. Sometime around the start of the New Year, they’ll be launching a new seasonal, the Millenial. We got just enough deets on the new brew that we’re dying to try it. And not just because the ABV will be over 10 percent, though we can’t deny that’s our cup of tea. We’ll definitely be back soon to try it, but if you get to it before we do, let us know what you think.
Vinnie’s has nearly the same brewski lineup as neighboring McGuire’s, including their IPA (at McGuire’s, it’s Irish, not India, Pale Ale), as well as their Irish ale, a fresh-brewed spin on mainstream American-style beer. They also have McGuire’s Irish Red, clearly a local fave, as well as our own much-beloved stout. Pitchers are priced at $11, pint glasses $4.75.
Vinnie’s has plenty of seating indoors and outside, where your pizza lovin’ pooch is also welcome. This time of year, it’s way easier to find available parking within steps of the front door, although there is an overflow parking lot. All things considered, it’s the best time of year to ring in the new by sticking with the tried and true. And year after year, decade after decade, McGuire’s has proven itself to be just that.