PANAMA CITY BEACH — Inspired by a trip to Jamaica, Runaway Bay brings a taste of the Caribbean to the Gulf.
“We just want you to feel like you’re on vacation when you come to eat or go to the tiki bar,” marketing director Mia Howard said. “And you also can park your boat.”
Runaway Bay, named after a town in Northern Jamaica, opened Feb. 1 in Pirates Cove Marina. Boat slips in the back of the restaurant allow guests to pull up for lunch or dinner. And if they bring their swimsuits, they can even go for a swim in the pool overlooking the Grand Lagoon.
“I know what I like and wanted to do something with a Caribbean twist,” said owner Terry Nadeau, who also owns 30 Degree Blue in Bay Point. “I signed the lease in October, the day before we went to Jamaica. … I wanted to make it kind of a destination instead of just going out to eat. Kids can swim and adults can swim, too. It’s a very unique spot — beautiful with a lot of potential.”
During the week, an express lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., ranging from Monday’s Deep Fried Chicken Breast or Blackened Fresh Catch to Friday’s Seafood Gumbo or Slow Smoked Sliced Trip Tip Steak. And on weekends, Chef David Rushing, with a background in “five-star dining,” offers different specials.
“His dishes lean that way,” Terry said. “He first showed me a white tablecloth kind of menu.”
Runaway Bay’s final menu has been simplified, but with the same quality of food.
“A lot get mahi any style,” said waitress Evie Tafunai, who moved to the beach in June from Michigan. “It’s a great location, so many people come and go, and I get to meet a lot here.”
I chose the blackened Mahi Mahi sandwich on a buttered, toasted Kaiser roll with chopped lettuce, pickle, red onion and tomato and a side of Cheddar Cheese Grits — “Oh, those are my favorite,” Evie said.
The fish was slightly crispy, salty and spicy, but no condiments were needed on the sandwich, usually served with Creole Remoulade. The Monterey Jack and cheddar covered grits, with a couscous texture, kept my mouth from getting too hot. This plate definitely is worth going back for.
The rub used for the blackened mahi mahi is a “secret blend,” Terry said, with many of the same spices used on the jerked chicken and jerked pork, “which are marinated overnight and slow smoked for hours every day right outside,” Mia added.
When Terry was at the “fabulous” Scotchies restaurant in Runaway Bay, he befriended a cook who has shared some of his recipe secrets, as well as ideas for the beach restaurant.
“Shrimp and grits are one of the main dishes, and fish tacos have been hot here,” said Mia, who also likes the crabcakes, as well as the jerked chicken and jerked pork. “For dessert, we have sorbet: pineapple, coconut and pina colada. The pineapple comes in a pineapple shell, and the others come in coconuts. Those are really good, too, and only 100 calories.”
What: Caribbean Bar & Grill
Where: 3901 Thomas Drive,in Pirates Cove Marina
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily;express lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday
Details: (850) 233-0334 or RunawayBayPCB.com