Grub got a chance to head over to the panhandle area of the state, as I was on a mission. Florida’s panhandle is known for its seafood, and in particular its oysters. And when I set out on a mission to find the best, I make sure that I do my research, gather data and develop a plan of action. Then it time to go. The target of this trip was plain and simple – to find the freshest, most reasonably priced oysters possible. After gathering my data, it wasn’t long before I started to notice a pattern. All indications pointed to one place. So I pointed the Grub-mobile toward Panama City and to Hunt’s Oyster Bar.
Hunt’s is located in the center of Panama City, I wont call it downtown, but I will say that it is close to the bay. It’s located in the tiny St. Andrews Community, which calls itself a “village by the bay.” As you enter Hunt’s the first thing you notice is its size – or lack of it. There are no more then twelve tables in the place and they fill up rather quickly. In fact, if you get there at anytime during the dinner hour, expect a wait, sometimes of up to an hour. In the middle of the restaurant’ is an L-shaped bar staffed by shuckers and waitresses. If you don’t want to wait for a table, then belly-up to the bar as the entire menu is available to you along with the oyster-shucking show that commands the attention of visitors and locals alike.
There is nothing fancy about the menu. They offer the standard fare found at most Florida seafood restaurants: shrimp, catfish, grouper, frog legs, scallops, etc. But at Hunt’s, the oyster is king. You can have your oysters prepared baked, Cajun baked, steamed, with three cheeses, three cheese Cajun, three cheese jalapeno, or you can order them just like Grub did – raw.
As Grub is new to the oyster game, I will admit, I had to be prodded to try the slimy bivalves. But once I received my instructions (and the appropriate amount of alcohol), I jumped right in! I had the requisite amount of hot sauce and horseradish, so I began to let them slide! The first dozen ($6.95) went down really fast. And so did the second dozen. After the third, I began to slow down. It was then that I started to take in the ambiance of the joint. This place was filled with a mixture of locals who were at the bar, and visitors who were dining at the tables. It is also very loud in the restaurant. The noise seemed to reverberate off of the walls. There is also a jukebox with some really old tunes on it; in fact, I believe they were of the 45-rpm variety.
After Grub had his fill of oysters, I turned my attention to the shrimp. The shrimp were fresh and really tasty, but I have had better. O’Steen’s in St. Augustine immediately comes to mind when I think of really good shrimp. Now don’t get me wrong, the shrimp at Hunt’s are good, I mean really good, but I have had better. Again, the oysters are king here. It is, by the way an oyster bar, so the oysters are the stars in this joint, plain and simple.
As far as the service goes, it was adequate. Remember this is an oyster bar, and not some fancy white-tablecloth establishment. The locals come here, and when they do, they are treated in the same fashion as Norm was on “Cheers”. If you want fancy, and you want exceptional service, and you want ambiance, then don’t get out of your car. But if you want fresh seafood at a reasonable price, and if you like your seafood accompanied by a cold beer, give Hunt’s a try. You wont be disappointed. This is a Good Grub spot, one that Grub will visit whenever I am in Panama City.
Restaurant: Hunt’s Oyster Bar
Address: 1150 Beck Avenue Panama City, FL 32401
Telephone: (850) 763-9645
Date of Visit: December 21, 2012
Good Grub or Garbage © 2013