Friday, July 17, 2009

Family Fun: An Authentic Beach Vacation

We just completed a nice, long summer vacation. This year we spent a week on the beach in Destin, FL. I was very much looking forward to nibblin' on sponge cake and steppin' on pop-tops, etc., etc.

Destin FL, in the panhandle, is a very well-established and beautiful beach town with all of the typical beach town adornments. You could rent scooters, wave runners, and boats. You can parasail or surf. You can fill your belly with fresh grouper and boiled shrimp.

We went to Pompano Joe's beachside restaurant. We went to AJ's on the wharf. We went to the Back Porch restaurant. All highly recommended by recent travelers. And, all pretty good -- but just pretty good. The food was pretty good, the service was pretty good, the price was pretty good (although there must be some sort of city ordinance that prohibits the sale of a long neck bottles of beer for under $4). The location of all of these places was incredible. You can't just sit there and eat. You have to sit there and eat and look over the beautiful emerald coast. The views were truly gorgeous.

But something was still missing. While at the Back Porch, I discovered what it was. I checked the very bottom of their menu and found that Pompano Joe's and Back Porch were both owned by a company called the Southern Restaurant Group. They're corporate. Then, I started to inspect all of the menus and information on the places we were going. They were all corporate.

Maybe I'm naive, or maybe I'm just getting old. But when I stop into a little sun-drenched, beach side restaurant called "Pineapple Willy's" or "Pompano Joe's" or "Seaside Sally's" --- I'd like to think that Willy, Joe, and Sally are back in the kitchen sweating over the grill and making sure all the food is just like it was when their momma used to work in the kitchen.

This authenticity is vanishing I'm afraid. Willy, Joe, and Sally are no longer real people, just caricatures that fit nicely on a t-shirt available for $24 in the gift shop (apparently there's an ordinance on minimum pricing for souvenir t-shirts, too.) These restaurants are all stamped out like cookies using age old formulas.

It was a really nice time in Destin, but I'm still on the look out for the truly authentic, truly American beach town vacation. I'm afraid, though, that in order to find it -- I'll have too look outside of America. If you know where Margaritaville went -- please drop me a comment let me know.


  1. My first comment failed...

    Boca Grande, Little Gasparilla/Palm Island, Cayo Costa, Captiva, North Captiva, Useppa Island, Marco, Sannibel, Marco...and the keys.

    And streaming hulu or versus on the vga is cheating. You consume it on a tv, it's tv.

  2. Thanks for the vacation ideas.

    I can see the side of the argument that says streaming TV content over the web is still TV. Turns out that although we CAN view stuff that way, we don't. The loss of the Versus coverage of Lance was only felt for a short time. We're back from vacation and thus back to being truly TV-Free.