Tips & Trips
The Red Bar
Inside South Walton’s “Most Popular Indoor Destination”
The wall decor screams “kitschy dive bar” but the food says “world class restaurant” and the live music seems straight from the hottest joints in New Orleans or Memphis. Put it all together, and you’ve got The Red Bar, a legendary Grayton Beach institution that brings together locals, visitors, and even an occasional celebrity on a nightly basis.
Technically, it’s called “Picolo’s Restaurant and Red Bar,” but most know it by the simple “Red Bar” moniker. The one-time general store is owned by Belgian-born brothers Oliver and Phillipe Petit, who modeled the funky decor on a nightclub their father once owned in Leige, Belgium. Foreign film posters and Christmas lights dominate the main dining room, with street signs, photos, statuettes and mismatched tables and chairs taking up most of the remaining available space. Oliver Petit calls it his “tribute to pop culture.”
The food, however, is anything but kitschy. The menu varies daily (menus are written on chalkboards and carried by wait staff), but includes items such as pasta with crawfish and shrimp, penne chicken and mashed potatoes, stuffed eggplant, crab cakes, fish of the day, and according to Pettit, the best key lime pie on the Florida Panhandle.
Then, of course, there’s the music. Whether it’s the house’s Red Bar Jazz Band or a local favorite like Dread Clampitt, you can count things cranking up after the dinner crowd thins out. And that might be when you spot a celebrity in the crowd. Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Steve Winwood and bluegrass legend Sam Bush are among the musical A-listers who have taken in a show here... as have star quarterback siblings Peyton and Eli Manning.
But despite its cool cachet, The Red Bar still maintains a laid-back, beach bar, everyone welcome vibe. You might see a couple in swimsuits and flip-flops at one table, a family in their Sunday best at another, and a some bikers at the bar. Petit bills it as the area’s “most popular indoor destination,” and by many accounts, he’s right. To many regular South Walton visitors, a beach vacation isn’t complete until they’ve been to the famous Red Bar.
A couple of things to know before you go, though... there are no reservations and no credit cards accepted. So bring a little patience (there will be a wait during peak hours) and some cash (there is an ATM on site) and plan for a great meal and a good time. At the Red Bar, fun is always on the menu.
The Red Bar is located at 70 Hotz Avenue in Grayton Beach and is open daily in the summer season. Hours vary in the off season.
Modified: June 28, 2012 3:56 pm