Gulf to Table Dining
by Christine Oliver
Growing up in Destin, Eddie Morgan spent his childhood watching his father run their family restaurant. From a young age, Eddie observed his father cultivate a superior level of service and an unbeatable menu selection of delectable dishes that brought guests back year after year. Since its inception in 1979, Harbor Docks has remained a family owned and operated restaurant boasting authentic, gulf to table dishes, promising and delivering only the freshest ingredients. Situated on the shoreline just off Harbor Boulevard, Harbor Docks offers its guests the unique feel of coming home, as soon as they walk in the door.
Whether you are visiting for the first time, or are one of the generations of customers who have grown up with the Morgan’s, the family at Harbor Docks are sure to make you feel at home. “We have the same folks coming in here since we opened our doors. We’ve seen families grow up here and bring their kids here,” says Eddie. “I’ve been working in this restaurant in some form since I was 7 years old.” And keeping it in the family is something his staff has also been a part of, continuing the traditions with several children and grandchildren of current employees that have worked at the restaurant as well. At least 5 of them have clocked over 30 years of dedication, so the Harbor Docks family knows the importance of continuing their traditions. With Jalune McCormick as their Thai Chef since 1982 and Duster Strawbridge, who started as a dishwasher and has grown into the current head of kitchen operations, Eddie and his family promote the loyalty in their restaurant and market staff as well as their customers.
Their Wholesale Seafood Market, which opened two years after the restaurant, is equipped with fishing boats that dock daily. Several are owned by Eddie and his family, but they contract around 100 boats to make it all happen. Visitors can see the boats making their way in to deliver fresh fish for the lunch and dinner table from across miles of Gulf waters from Panama City Beach to Bayou Labatre, AL, and beyond.
“We pride ourselves on serving local food, either caught or brought in from local markets,” says Eddie, of the food used in every menu selection. From offering fresh, local seafood ingredients to dishes made from scratch since the restaurant’s inception, Harbor Docks has found the recipe to ensure each plate is mouthwatering and their atmosphere is the most welcoming. And not much has changed since he bought the restaurant from his dad a year ago. “We have things on the menu that have been there since we opened our doors. We try new things to keep up with the trends, but a lot of our most popular dishes are the original ones.”
Among those most requested dishes are the grilled Grouper Parmadine, topped with lump crabmeat, parmesan cheese, and roasted almonds, served alongside a house salad and Yukon gold mash. But any of their grilled, fried or blackened dishes are what keep guests coming back. Since bringing on their sushi chef of 27 years, Yoshie Eddings, Harbor Docks has been able to expand their offerings to customers who enjoy exotic styles and colorful presentations. Yoshi who was brought on board because of her extensive skills and experience gathered directly from Tokyo, offers customers the chance to try sushi hand-crafted with only the most superb ingredients. With the Back Down and Big Papi as the two most popular among their current 42 different rolls, guests will have no trouble spicing things up each and every time they visit.
Guests can even host private parties at Harbor Docks, which is currently undergoing renovations to restore that branch of the restaurant to its original glory. “There’s a lot of exciting things happening,” says Eddie, of the restoration.
As if serving the freshest food isn’t enough, the staff and crew of Harbor Docks also give back to their community by fundraising throughout the year with their Cobia Tournaments and various charity auctions to coordinate a special charter fishing expedition the first Sunday in November for the children in their community. Eddie and his team take close to 300 kids fishing, ensuring that it is an experience no child is likely to forget. By partnering with The Donut Hole to provide free breakfast for the kids the morning of and hosting a huge fish fry after the charter boats dock, the Harbor Docks family gives kids in the community the experience of a lifetime.
But it’s not just the kids in the community that Eddie and his family provide for. Every Thanksgiving, Harbor Docks opens their doors for a feast welcoming anyone who would like to join them, serving the traditional Thanksgiving dishes free of charge. They encourage anyone to come and sit at their table. “We get everything from second homeowners who are just in town for the holidays, to homeless people who are just looking for a hot meal.”
The fresh catches and flavorful favorites served up for lunch and dinner may be what get people in the door, but the inviting family atmosphere and outstanding staff are what keep guests coming back. “We are definitely known for our fresh fish. We don’t do anything tricky or try to mask it or hide it. We are what we are, and people love it.” And behind the thriving restaurant and seafood market is a family who has given back to the Destin community, and will continue to do so for years to come
Harbor Docks | 538 Harbor Blvd | Destin, FL, 32541 | (850) 837-2506 | Harbor Docks Website
Coastal Palate Magazine, all rights reserved
This is how we eat!