In the classic movie Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman ate 50 eggs. I think I might top that before the day is over. I just ordered two over easy at June's Dunes in Destin, Florida. The sun is barely up, and I'm already on my second breakfast.
Pardon me if I start to cackle. I love breakfast. It's my favorite meal of the day when I'm traveling--maybe because there's time to enjoy it without having to rush to the office. Many other vacationers who come to Destin seem to feel the same way. This part of the Emerald Coast looks like breakfast heaven to me. Almost every street boasts a cafe, diner, or bakery that makes a big deal out of the day's first meal.
"Even though a lot of people stay in condos, it's amazing how many don't like to cook when they go to the beach," says Bill Chandler, who helps his son Brent run the Donut Hole, a popular bakery and cafe that draws crowds at locations in Destin and nearby Santa Rosa.
On a recent visit, I tried as many early-morning eateries as I could manage. Here are some I found that make meals worth waking up for.
Another Broken Egg Cafe, 104 U.S. 98 East, Destin, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, (850) 650-0499. "We believe that your breakfast is the most important meal of the day," owners Marsha and Tommy Green declare on the front of the menu at their friendly, cozy restaurant. The extensive menu rises to the occasion with a wide choice of omelets, including the Floridian ($8.95), made with fresh crabmeat, butter, garlic, green onions, cream cheese, and Monterey Jack cheese. Another specialty, blackberry grits, puts a sweet twist on a Southern standby. Rich, flavorful coffee is served steaming in ceramic mugs.
June's Dunes, Old U.S. 98 near the inlet, Destin, 6 a.m.-2 p.m. daily, (850) 650-0455. Order fast. It's a pity, but this longtime beachfront favorite in a weathered red cottage is due to be razed at any time to make way for high-rise condos. June's Special--two pancakes, two eggs, and bacon--costs $3.75. For as long as it lasts, sit at an outdoor table, and enjoy one of the least expensive breakfasts around, with a million-dollar view.
Pancake Crêperie & Bakery, 11225 U.S. 98 West, Destin, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily, (850) 654-9999. Give your keys to the waitress, and have the sand and salt washed off your car ($9.99). While you wait, indulge in an order of delicious Southern peach crêpes ($6.25), a breakfast dish that could easily pass for a dessert. The car wash isn't all that's fast at this new restaurant, which is as high energy as a blender on steroids. Service is also lightning quick. The waitress brought my order of peach crêpes topped with powdered sugar, pecans, and whipped cream before the specially blended A. Fuente coffee finished perking in the automated pot at my table. A tall glass of water with a twist of lemon arrived without my having to ask for it. The waitress even asked if I'd like to take some coffee with me for the road.
Donut Hole, 635 U.S. 98 East, Destin, open 24 hours daily, (850) 837-8824. There's a larger location in Santa Rosa, but what I like best about the original cafe and bakery is that you can have breakfast any time you feel like it. I ended the day with a Destin omelet ($8.50), made with fresh local crabmeat, onions, peppers, and cheese, topped off with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. I finally settled on a plain, old-fashioned doughnut, plucked from the array of 28 different kinds that fill the shelves of the bakery. "I've only been working here three years," a waitress volunteered. "I haven't tried them all yet." So, even if you like breakfast as much as I do, don't try to top Cool Hand Luke's record for eating eggs the next time you visit Destin. Save some room for doughnuts.
This article is from the June 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.