What’s in a sign? I don’t normally expect a lot from restaurants with neon signs in strip malls. Consider it a blind spot.
I overcame that issue to visit Firefly in Panama City Beach, Florida on the recommendation of several people.
The approach is a bit strange with the main Firefly sign and then a Firefly Sushi sign next door. The front door leads into a steak-house-meets-sports-bar-good-old-boy bar with lots of leather and wood. I am a little nervous again.
We were escorted into the main dining area which is done in a rustic Italian style with iron fixtures, a faux stone wall and a mammoth tree in the center of the large main dining area. Apparently, the tree was fabricated by the same people that did the tree of life at the Disney World Animal Kingdom. It is ringed with Christmas lights, Chinese lanterns and if you watch closely, the occasional simulated firefly. All in all, a bit of mash-up that doesn’t work for me.
Our server greeted us promptly and pleasantly and helped us with the specials and a couple of appetizer options. We were a group of six in for my oldest daughter’s birthday and we ordered the Brie in Puff Pastry and the Pepper Crusted Tuna at her request.
The tuna was sweet and fresh and the ponzu sauce and pepper crust gave it just the right counter-balance. The brie was wrapped up in a flaky pastry and paired with apricot preserves. It was also lovely.
Knowing that we had a lot of food to come my wife and I opted to split a she-crab bisque, rather than each attempt a soup or salad course. It arrived to be finished at the table with a draught of sherry and had a huge puff pastry floating in the middle. It could have easily been an ice cream base it was so tasty and another bowl got ordered as soon as the birthday girl saw ours!
I particularly like it when everyone at a table opts for something different because I get to try a lot of things! With six people we had a lot of variety to try.
The rosemary crusted lamb came out as a huge portion with six little meat lollipops. They were cooked perfectly and were resting in a peppermint jus. My two small complaints with the dish were that the kiwi seemed like more of an afterthought than a salsa and the rosemary was not really a crust. Perhaps the searing pan was a bit too cool, but the lamb was still excellent and the jus complimented it wonderfully.
My wife opted for the grouper, which is always a safe choice on the gulf. Lovely, white and flaky with a sauce of sherry, fresh corn and grape tomatoes. It tasted like summer on a plate.
The pan seared scallops were caramelized to perfection without being overcooked and the mushroom risotto added a nice earthy balance to the sweet scallops.
Bacon wrapped shrimp and grits. You had me at bacon. I can’t believe I managed to get one of these shrimp away from my youngest daughter after she tasted them. The apple wood bacon was nicely smoky and the grits and red-eye gravy made for a great low country/high-class combo.
The birthday girl opted for the stuffed filet which was filled with cream cheese, feta, spinach and bacon. It was all held in place by a literal tree of rosemary. I assume it was really good because she did not let me have even a taste of it…
Just to round it all out we had the last of our company go with the blue cheese crusted filet which he pronounced among the best he had ever eaten.
While there was no place to put it we still chose to share a bread pudding at the end of the meal. One dessert, six spoons. They even piped “Happy Birthday” on the plate in chocolate to celebrate the event!
All in all, even with my quibbles about the mixed vibe, the evening was lovely and the quality of the food covered any of those issues. The service was excellent and it was the kind of dinner where you never have to ask for anything. We will be returning soon.
Entrees run from $23 to $42 and the full menu is available here.
Reservations are recommended. Firefly has been recognized by Wine Spectator and TripAdvisor among others.