IF YOU GO:
Location: 157 Brooks Street, Downtown Fort Walton Beach, Fl., one block off Hwy. 98 on the water.
Fare: Italian, seafood, steaks, signature sandwiches and salads and homemade desserts.
Just one block off busy Hwy. 98 in downtown Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is a place many longtime Snowbirds proudly call “home” – The Magnolia Grill.
“We have many Snowbirds who bring their friends and family in to ‘their’ restaurant,” said owner Tom Rice. “They go through and tell them all about the history and introduce me to them. It’s great.”
The remodeled and rambling 90-year old Craftsman-style two story house has a prime waterfront location that history buffs will remember as the former site of the 98 Court Motel. The walls are covered with memorabilia of Fort Walton’s long and sometimes racy history which included gambling well into the 1950s. The restaurant was named after the Magnolia Club, a landmark downtown business from that era.
The restaurant is open for lunch during the week and dinner nightly. The menu features Italian, seafood, steak and homemade desserts.
Lunch entrees range between $8 to $10 and include many of the Magnolia Grill’s signature dishes that come complete with soup or salad.
“Snowbirds know when they come here they will get value for their money,” said Rice who kept his prices steady during the recent boom years. “Most of the time we send them home with a ‘go’ box so they have a meal for the next day too.”
We visited for lunch and my strapping 6’3, 24-year-old nephew ordered the salad with prime rib accompanied by a cup of Fagoli soup and toasted garlic toast. I had the Crabcake with Fettucine and Shrimp Alfredo sauce and took half home for my 16-year-old daughter’s dinner. She proclaimed it as “the best she’s ever had.”
Both of us left stuffed but still ordered a sampling of desserts for later. The restaurant offers a variety of home-made desserts contributed by various staff members from Tiramasu, cheesecakes, pies and good, old-fashioned apple pie.
Visitors are urged to visit the museum upstairs where military, media and local landmark memorabilia will make you go “wow.”
Each year the famed World War II heroes “Doolittle Raiders” held a reunion at the restaurant and surviving members still visit from time to time.
Originally posted January 2009