While staying at the Hilton Sandestin Beach during our trip to the Emerald Coast of Florida, we went to see the concierge to pick his brain of places to get fresh caught seafood in the area. While he said that most fresh caught places had limited hours, one place he recommended was Boshamp's Seafood and Oyster House along the harbor in Destin. One evening for dinner, we decided to go give Boshamp's a try.
Allen and Dee Phillips were long time members of the local restaurant scene in Destin opening their Flamingo Cafe in 1986 along the docks of Destin Harbor. For about 20 years they ran the popular seafood place until they decided to retire. The building became the Fish Bar and was in business until about 2011 before it shut down.
The restaurant business was in the blood of the Phillips children helping their parents out in the old Flamingo Cafe for years. Miller Phillips graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in restaurant and hospitality management and opened a franchised location of Another Broken Egg breakfast restaurant in Mountain Brook, AL. His younger sister Ashley was the general manager and their mother helped with the decor. When the Fish Bar shut down, Miller Phillips decided to sell his Another Broken Egg location and move back to Destin to achieve his lifelong dream of running his family's restaurant. Ashley followed him back home.
For over a year, the Phillips family transformed the building from a tired old building into a vibrant restaurant that paid homage to the older days of Destin when it was primarily a fishing town. They put in new docks for boaters and jet skiers to gain access via the harbor. They built a nice outdoor eating area overlooking the harbor and completely redesigned and refurbished the inner dining area of the restaurant. They reopened the new Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House in April of 2013.
Boshamps head chef Andi Bell has long been associated with the Phillips family. Bell, an Alabama native, used to come to the Emerald Coast as a child with his family and moved there in 1991. Bell - a top honors graduate of the then Florida Culinary Institute (now the Lincoln Culinary Institute) - ended up as the chef at the Flamingo Cafe in 1996 and was named a "Rising Star of American Cuisine" by the James Beard Foundation in 2001. When Miller Phillips opened Boshamps in 2013, Andi Bell was in place as the executive chef.
With a dog in the logo, I figured that the name had something to do with a dog that Miller Phillips owned. Actually, the name of the restaurant comes from the Phillips family's three Labrador's - Bobo, Otis and Shug. Ashley Phillips added Miller Phillips initials and the restaurant became Boshamp's. (When I first saw the name of the restaurant, I figured that the family's name was Beauchamp and that the name of the place was the American-ized phonetic spelling. That's what I get for over-thinking.)
Boshamps is located right along US Highway 98 in the heart of Destin. (see map) The parking lot was full when we pulled in around 7:30 and we ended up using valet parking. Not having a reservation, we knew we'd probably have to wait at the bar for a bit. We were greeted by a couple young ladies at the hostess stand who wanted to know if we wanted to eat inside, outside or first available. Although we both wanted to eat outside, we knew that we'd have better luck if we said first available and if we had to sit inside, so be it. We ended up going to the bar to get a drink.
The bar is the centerpiece of the restaurant when you walk in. It was a rectangular shaped bar with seating on three sides. A young lady was one of the bartenders and she came over to take our drink order. My wife said that she wanted a rum runner - one of our favorite Caribbean-themed drinks that has, well, a ton of alcohol in it. I decided to get the same thing.
The main dining room had large windows that looked out on to the harbor area. Rustic wooden planks adorned the walls along with dark walnut floors and a wooden ceiling. The wood decor made for a pretty loud dining and bar area in the place.
We took a quick look outside and found out why everyone wanted to eat out there. There was a large open air dining and bar area that looked out over the harbor. A gentle breeze was coming in off the water and it was a great night to eat outside. But looking at the number of people in the outdoor dining area we had pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be eating inside sooner than eating outdoors later.
We went back in to sit at the bar to wait for a table. Our bartender struck up a conversation with us asking where we were from. We told her we were from Iowa and she said, "Oh, hey! I'm from Indiana. Columbus, to be exact." I asked her why she ended up here and she said, "I came down for vacation and always thought it was a nice place. I just ended up moving down here awhile back. I miss Indiana, but I don't miss the winters." After the winter we just had in Iowa, I know what she means.
Our buzzer went off and we went over to the hostess stand. One of the hostesses took us to a table opposite one of the large windows and dropped off some menus. I was finished with my rum runner and I ordered another one when she asked me if I needed another drink. It wasn't long before our server for the evening, Douglas, came back with the rum runner and greeted us.
Douglas told us of their "Catch of the Day" specials that night, it was a red snapper with soft shell crab on top. He also had just a regular red snapper that could be cooked in various ways. Red snapper has made a strong comeback in the Gulf after almost being fished out of existence a few years ago.
We almost ordered some oysters on the half shell at the bar, but waited until we sat down. Douglas said, "I'll get those going and let you two look over the menu."
We noticed a lot of the red snapper/soft shell crab going by our table. Cindy was eyeing that entree pretty heavily. "That looks pretty good," she said as a server placed four of the special entrees on a table near us.
While the menu wasn't extensive, it featured - of course - seafood entrees, steaks, fried chicken and a lobster/mac & cheese entree. The nightly special sounded good, but I was leaning toward getting a blackened red snapper.
Douglas brought out the oysters that came with fresh ground horseradish, shrimp sauce and something that was called a "PBR mignonette". "It's the chef's own concoction," he told us. "He takes the regular mignonette (vinegar, minced shallots, cracked black pepper) and puts a little Pabst Blue Ribbon in it. It's really good."
These were some of the biggest and meatiest oysters that we had ever seen. Cindy asked if they were local oysters and Douglas replied, "No, these are from Louisiana. We used to get our oysters locally, but the oyster beds ran dry and the states of Florida and Georgia are in a lawsuit about it." We had mentioned that we heard about this earlier during our stay in the area and he said, "Yeah, it's a real mess."
He told us that he'd let have some time to take care of the oysters before he took our order for dinner. That was a mistake. During the time we were enjoying the oysters, they ran out of that night's special with the red snapper and the soft shell crab. Cindy ordered that after we finished our oysters and when she was told that wasn't available any longer we both groaned. We had seen a LOT come out of the kitchen as we were sitting there and Douglas was a little slow getting back to us as he was busy with other tables. "Yeah, I was just told that we ran out," Douglas told us. "Sorry about that folks." He later told us that they would have it again as a special on Saturday night, but we would be leaving on Saturday morning. Oh well...
Cindy went back to the menu and found something called the "Original Snapper Destin" - jumbo lump crab meat, steamed Gulf shrimp, mashed red potatoes, locally grown braised greens and topped with a bearnaise sauce with honey roasted pecans. She said, "Actually, that was going to be my other choice."
I ended up getting the red snapper - blackened, of course. I even told Douglas that the chef could "stomp on" the Cajun seasonings for me, if he wanted. With the red snapper, it came with cheesy grits and locally raised tomatoes and okra in a Cajun maque choux. I also got a cup of their housemade gumbo and I switched from the rum runners to a beer. I selected one of the locally brewed Grayton Brewing Company beers - the pale ale. I found their beers to be all right, but nothing that I had to take back to Iowa with me.
The gumbo had a very forward and smoky flavor. Chunks of chicken and shrimp made for a fine complement to the gumbo broth. I zipped it up with some Tabasco and it was pretty good. Not the best I've had, but it worked for that evening.
Douglas brought our food out to us and - as I asked - the chef covered the red snapper in Cajun seasonings before the blackening process. It had a nice crust of seasonings on the outside and inside the fish was tender, moist and flaky. It was very good.
The cheesy grits (found that a lot of places we ate at in Florida had cheesy grits - I like just the regular good ol' grits) were all right as was the tomato/okra/maque choux. Quite honestly, after the big oysters and the gumbo, I was pretty stuffed before the main entrees showed up. I concentrated almost wholly on the delicious blackened red snapper.
Cindy's dinner entree was very interesting - and very rich. The lump crab meat, shrimp and everything was sort of piled on top of one another with the bearnaise sauce drizzled over the top. She loved it tremendously. We exchanged bites of our food and I had some of the crab meat. It was very, very good. She said, "Well, if I couldn't get the other dinner, this worked out fine."
We were fully stuffed after the dinner was over and Douglas tempted us with dessert and this was one of the few times that we refused on our trip. I was fully satiated and couldn't have even begun to think about having anything else at that point.
Things were winding down for the evening when Douglas brought us our bill. Cindy asked him if he was from somewhere else and he told us that he had been in the Marine Corps for 20 years and retired to St. Louis after he got out of the service. "My brother is the catering and beverage manager at the Hilton Sandestin (which was a coincidence since we were staying there) and I brought my family down here for Christmas about five years ago." He said that while it was cold and snowy in St. Louis that day, it was 66 degrees in Destin and they were out walking along the beach in shorts. "We moved down here not long after that and it's been great for my family," he told us. "My son is high school age and he's more active here than he was in St. Louis, he was always playing video games. He's always outside down here."
After I paid Doug I thanked him not only for his fine service that evening, but for his service for our country. "Thank you on both counts," he said as he bid us farewell. "I appreciate it deeply." He was a good guy and a good server.
About the only problem I had with Boshamps is that we didn't get to eat outside. Well, that and the special that evening had sold out by the time we were ready to order. But the food was very good, Douglas' service was above average (although he did forget some Tabasco for the oysters and was a little slow getting back to us causing Cindy to miss out on the special that evening), the atmosphere was perfect as a laid back place to get some very good and very fresh seafood. Boshamps was not our best meal during our trip, but it was a close second. And that's saying a lot.