Our friends Tom and Durlene enjoyed their January in Florida last year so much that they've returned again this year, and we couldn't be happier about it. We wasted no time driving down to the condo they're renting in Destin and spent the better part of the day with them yesterday. We caught up on the events of the last year, remembered stories from our long history together and laughed...a lot. It was delightful.
As dinnertime rolled around, Tom suggested we drive thirty minutes or so on down the road and eat in Grayton Beach, a tiny little beach community with it's own funky style. Tom and Durlene had dined at a beach bar/grill there last year and found the food to be very good so we were game. We loaded up in the car and off we went.
From the get-go Durlene began warning us that our destination wasn't exactly classy but that didn't scare us off. Sometimes the best food can be found in the most unassuming surroundings, but I will admit to a raised eyebrow or two when she began to describe the decor as looking like the inside of a brothel. Wayne wanted to know how she knew what that was but I came to her rescue by offering that she'd probably seen the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. And when we arrived, I knew just what she meant.
First of all, all the interior lights are red. Strings of red Christmas lights around the ceiling, red bulbs filling the several unmatched chandeliers hanging at odd places here and there, and red lamps in the can lights in the ceiling which appeared at random intervals. And there are candles on the tables...mostly red candles. All that red light certainly conjures up images of ladies of the night but it probably has a lot to do with why they named it The Red Bar.
It takes a while for the eyes to adjust so you can see the rest of the decor and when they do, well...it's eclectic to say the least. Posters from old concerts cover the ceiling, odd art hangs from the wall and there's just more stuff than you can take in. Perhaps the most puzzling was an arrangement of mismatched couches and chairs in one corner of the room. They were odd for a restaurant, but then this wasn't your average restaurant. We couldn't figure out of they were there to accommodate people waiting for tables or to seat an audience for the band. Yes, there was a band...in this case and kind of jazzy trio that were pretty nice to listen to although a little loud for the size of the room. Maybe this photo will do a better job of illustrating the scene than my words:
It's one I found on the Internet as it was too dark inside to capture a picture with my phone. And while this is the combo that played last night, the seats were unoccupied while we were there and it wasn't warm enough for shorts either.
So how could we read a menu in this dim light? The easy answer is there isn't one. The waiter rattled off the five or six items they serve along with two nightly dinner specials...then we must have looked confused and he went and got one of the three big chalkboards they have leaning against a side wall. Of course, we still had to remember the specials because they weren't on the boards. Durlene and I settled on crab cakes while the guys ordered blacked grouper with grilled grit cakes and sauteed spinach.
The place might look like a dive but the food was outstanding! We all raved about our meals, tasted what we didn't order from our spouses' plates, and practically licked the platters clean. That explains a lot too. While the bar was open when we arrived, it was still ten minutes until the restaurant started seating so we wandered around outside. You didn't have to wonder when opening time arrived...people started descending on the restaurant from all directions all at once. I don't know where they'd been but they knew it was time to eat, and in a matter of minutes, most of the tables and booths were full. I can see why. All the way home Wayne and I talked about our next trip down to The Red Bar...because we will be back.
In years to come, we'll be sitting around with Tom and Durlene and saying Remember that dive you took us to where the food was so good? And we'll all laugh again.