Old Hag's Cafe - Fort Walton Beach, FL
“I am the old hag,” declares co-owner Gabrielle “Gabby” Woodward, who is neither old nor a hag.
So how did she come by that name?
It sprang from a conversation she once had about older workers vs. younger workers. At one point she asked herself, “What am I? An old hag?” and voila, a restaurant name was born.
Woodward worked at Harbor Docks in Destin for almost 25 years, waiting tables, tending bar and managing the lunch hour.
But to avoid becoming a “70-year-old bartender,” she recently opened her not-so-eponymous restaurant in the old Lums building on Eglin Parkway.
Destin’s loss is Fort Walton Beach’s gain. The self-anointed “old hag” has come to town.
The Old Hag’s Café describes its menu this way: “Meals like your grandma made!”
Indeed, the list of entrees reads like dinner at Grandma’s house: meatloaf, pork tenderloin, fish, chicken breast, shrimp, and even chicken pot pies.
You can start with a host of appetizers and salads, then graduate to sandwiches and sides.
Sides follow the comfort food theme with traditional dishes like macaroni and cheese, real mashed potatoes with gravy, fries, cole slaw, peas or greens.
The kids have their own menu with macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, grilled cheese and fish nuggets.
To finish, the Old Hag’s Café serves bread pudding with bourbon sauce, a hot fudge brownie, vanilla ice cream or a desert of the day. Look for the chalk board directly in front of the main entrance for daily specials.
The Old Hag will also offer a selection of beer and wine, sake bloody mary, sake fussy navel, mimosa and fuzzy mimosa.
On our visit, we started with an appetizer of fried green tomatoes. This is a dish that can easily be done wrong – the breading is too thin or mushy, or the tomato itself bitter or not really “green.”
Our FGTs were perfect – maybe the best I’ve ever tasted. The breading was rich and crispy; the tomatoes were piping hot and sweet. They arrived with a creamy dipping sauce that offered lots of flavor.
For dinner I ordered the daily special – a giant sloppy joe with fries. I confess: I ate my sloppy joe with a fork so I wouldn’t wear my dinner home on my shirt. The beef was finely ground with that tangy, delicious, barbecuey taste.
The Old Hag offers a mix of sweet potato and potato fries. On a previous visit I’d gotten the mix; this time I went all-potato. The fries are thick and ripple-cut, just right for scooping up big globs of ketchup!
My guest helped herself to the chicken pot pie. It arrived in a wide, shallow dish covered with a flaky, golden crust. The contents were creamy, tender and hot.
Our visits to the Old Hag have always been pleasant, though I can’t say the view is as pretty as Destin Harbor. Once the sun goes down you can light a candle at your table. And once summer gives way to fall, prepare to eat outside on the patio.
One word describes the service: outstanding.
We got to choose our table. Our server accompanied us with menus at the ready. Our drinks were delivered immediately. And as Woodward chatted with us, our appetizers arrived. Only minutes later our entrees were brought to the table, still steaming. Our drink glasses never dipped below three quarters full.
A final taste
If you’re in the mood for comfort food, the Old Hag’s Café is your venue. Prices are reasonable and service is incredible. The food is tasty, and who knows? Maybe the “old hag” herself will drop by your table for a visit.
Except she’s not “old.” And she’s not a “hag.”