Deep in the heart of Florida’s Panhandle, you’ll find Jackson County where freshly brewed sweet tea flows and hearty Southern flavors can be found around every corner. And while Southern cuisine may be a staple here, this destination also boasts a mix of international fare and is home to a World Food Champion Chef. But the one thing these establishments have in common is their love of local ingredients, which has helped create an eclectic menu of farm-to-table options for foodies to enjoy — whether it’s the best buttermilk fried chicken you’ve ever tasted or ice cream made with farm-fresh milk. Not only will you fall in love with the small town charm, but it’s easy to make memories while sharing great food and enjoying some Southern hospitality at these nine eateries in Jackson County.
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The Salt Block, Marianna
A culinary journey through Jackson County must include a stop at The Salt Block, which is owned by Executive Chef Nick Rickman, the 2018 World Food Champion. Not only will patrons enjoy award-winning fine dining in a casual atmosphere, but also a menu that emphasizes local farm fare into its cuisine. Foodies can delight their taste buds with the mouthwatering Chicken and Grits, featuring three-cheese grits topped with buttermilk fried chicken, heirloom tomatoes, field peas, corn and candied bacon. But a trip to The Salt Block would not be complete unless at least one person at your table orders one of the chef’s award-winning steaks. Rickman not only took home the top prize at the 2018 World Food Championships, but his culinary prowess also includes a third-place finish at the 2016 World Steak Championship.
Bistro Palms, Marianna
Stop by this locally owned and operated cafe in historic downtown Marianna to grab one of its famous paninis or wood-fired pizzas. The fresh dough for the pizza is made in house and left to rise for 48 hours before being topped with tasty ingredients that come from neighboring farms and purveyors. The pizzas are baked in an Italian brick oven for that delicious wood-fired taste. The fresh Italian bread for the melt-in-your-mouth paninis is made from scratch as well. Have a seat on the outdoor patio to enjoy a cocktail or cold beer and listen to live music on Friday nights. Locals give rave reviews about the atmosphere here, and it doesn’t hurt that the food is fabulous too.
This family-owned and operated fine dining restaurant in Marianna offers up something new to the region with its Mediterranean-Greek-American fusion cuisine. Start the meal off with a flavorful Fattoush salad or share a plate of stuffed grape leaves or baba ganoush with friends. For your main course, indulge in Mashawy’s signature dish of lamb chops that are charbroiled to perfection and seasoned with Mashawy spices or go vegetarian with fresh falafel served over a bed of basmati rice. End your evening with a delightful Mediterranean dessert and some hookah.
Olle’s Restaurant, Alford
Olle’s at Compass Lake Lodge brings an Eastern European flair to Florida’s Panhandle. On the menu you’ll find all American favorites next to some of Germany’s best dishes, all cooked to order. For starters choose from a fried shrimp platter with hushpuppies or grilled bratwurst and sauerkraut. For an entree, diners can indulge in a hearty 12-ounce USDA Choice Ribeye or Schnitzel with sauerkraut and lemon-dill sauce. Pair your meal with a cold glass of German beer and be sure to save room for a slice of Amaretto Biscotti layer cake. Before heading out to Olle’s, call ahead and make a reservation. Reservations are required at this establishment, as Chef Olle believes it’s the best way to have a quality, personal dining experience.
Grady’s Seafood, Graceville
Fancy a fresh catch? Head over to Grandy’s Seafood, where the fish is fresh and the service is friendly. Grady’s Seafood has served the Graceville community since 1977, when the original owners Grady Spears and his wife, Ouida, came out of retirement. The family had previously owned and operated the Circle Grill, so the restaurateurs have long been part of Graceville’s local restaurant scene. Now Grady’s Seafood is in its third generation and is known as a local favorite. Residents and visitors say the fried shrimp is the best in town and the onion rings are a must-try menu item. Top things off with a slice of Key Lime Pie, because calories don’t count on vacation.
Circle Grill, Graceville
Like Grady’s Seafood, Circle Grill has cemented its place in Graceville’s dining scene. The restaurant has served the community in the same location since 1948 and is considered a staple in the tri-state area. Open six days a week for lunch and dinner, Circle Grill is known for its family atmosphere and great steaks and seafood. The house specialty is the jumbo fried shrimp and be sure to start your meal with an appetizer of fried pickles — locals say they’re some of the best you’ll eat in the region.
Southern Craft Creamery, Marianna
Got a sweet tooth? Head over to the Southern Craft Creamery in Marianna for a scoop of handcrafted ice cream made with milk from the company’s family farm. Every scoop of ice cream highlights the non-homogenized milk, and the ingredients used to create the signature flavors not only compliment the dairy components, but many are sourced locally from neighboring farms and purveyors. The strawberry ice cream is flavored with fresh, plump strawberries from Ferris Groves in Floral City, Fla.; the coffee flavor is developed with locally roasted beans from Amavida in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.; and the sweet floral flavor of the Wildflower Honey comes from Smiley Farms in Graceville, Fla. Keep an eye open for seasonal flavors too, like Butter Pecan or Kumquat, which also source local ingredients to create that perfect scoop.
Gary’s Southern Grill, Graceville
Hands on and homemade is the culinary focus at Gary’s Southern Grill. This family restaurant in Graceville serves up Southern specialties and prides itself on taking a hands on approach to its food, like hand-cut steaks chargrilled to perfection as well as hand-pattied burgers and hand-breaded chicken tenders and jumbo shrimp. Other Southern-style recipes on the menu include baby back ribs and country fried steak. While the ribeye gets lots of rave reviews from customers, the pulled pork that’s smoked to perfection, topped with housemade barbecue sauce and served on toasted bun is a favorite among patrons as well.
Ocheesee Creamery, Grand Ridge
A visit to this dairy store will harken back to the days when milk was delivered to your home and served up in glass bottles. Ocheesee Creamery in Grand Ridge focuses on the benefits of whole milk and whole milk products that are produced on its farm. The farm store sells whole milk, as well as skim milk, chocolate milk, yogurt, butter and ice cream. Pick from delicious flavors like mint chocolate chip and salty caramel — the creamery even sells pumpkin spice in the fall. The pasteurized, non-homogenized cream-top milk is a favorite among customers and visitors. Ocheesee Creamery also is the only dairy farm in Florida that makes its own butter. In addition to the farm store Ocheesee Creamery’s products also can be found at select stores in Marianna, Greenwood, Malone, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Seaside and throughout the Florida Panhandle.
Some of your best memories will be made around the dinner table, so why not make those memories sharing great food. Whether you’re looking for classic comfort food or world-class dining, Jackson County offers some to please every palate. So sit down with a glass of sweet tea and enjoy a hearty serving of Southern hospitality and delicious food in Jackson County. Plan your culinary quest and download the free visitor’s guide here.