Whether you reeled it in yourself, or boats delivered their bounty to the docks, fish is never more mouthwatering than the day it’s pulled from the water – and you can experience that EVERY DAY in Destin-Fort Walton Beach. With more than 20 types of edible fish in the Gulf of Mexico, there are plenty of fish in the sea for you to enjoy.

Here are four ways to order your fresh Gulf-to-table fish. Trust us, you’ll be hooked.

Blackened 

This Cajun-inspired technique creates a “black” crust. No, it’s not burnt. The fish is dipped in melted butter, sprinkled with herbs and spices, then fried in a sizzling-hot cast iron pan. The milkfat in the butter and seasonings cause the dark color. Seasonings vary by chef, they usually are a combination of thyme, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and – for the traditional “kick” – cayenne pepper. If you want to tone down the spiciness, ask for “bronzed” instead of “blackened.”  Most fish can be blackened. Go completely southern with the appropriate sides, such as dirty rice, black-eyed peas, fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, and okra.

Grilled

We could point out that this is the healthiest way to prepare one of the healthiest proteins, but really, it just tastes great. Smoky goodness complements marinades and seasonings. Flavor and moisture are locked in. There’s a reason man has cooked this way since fire was discovered. Firm fish that won’t break apart on the grates, such as tuna, salmon, mahi-mahi, and snapper, are best for this method. If you need to look after your beach body, choose steamed broccoli, green beans, or Brussels sprouts as sides. Otherwise, you’ve already saved a lot of calories. Go for the carbs! Baby potatoes, sourdough bread, cheesy pasta! Finish with key lime pie.

Fried

Coated in breading or batter, then cooked up in a pan or deep-fryer, this is the quintessential American way to prepare fish. Heck, there are entire social gatherings named for it: “fish fries.” Hot and crispy, flavors can range from beer to buttermilk. Don’t worry about the oil. Seafood restaurants in Destin, Florida, expertly fry at the right temperature, which immediately seals the crust, so the fish isn’t greasy. Continue the theme with coleslaw, hush puppies, fried okra, and French fries.

Let Your Restaurant Surprise You

They will never go wrong: The chefs who prepare the best seafood in Destin know that all fish are not the same. Different kinds of fish require different cooking methods and flavor complements. When tired fishermen bring in their catch of the day, and say “Just surprise us,” chefs perk up. It’s time to be creative and have some fun! It can get fancy – avocado aioli, beurre blanc sauce, pecan-crusted with bourbon, five-spiced – but it’s always a meal to fondly remember.