Two Walton County restaurants have been recognized as among the best in Florida by receiving the Golden Spoon Award.
Vin'tij Food & Wine, at 500 Grand Blvd., and Bijoux, at 9375 Emerald Coast Parkway, are distinct attractions to the area, according to Florida Trend, a business magazine that has recognized elite restaurants across the state for more than 50 years.
Both owners said their restaurants were anonymously nominated and then visited by undercover food critics — and once you've earned the Golden Spoon Award, a new standard is set.
"When you make the list, you know it has quantitative meaning to it in multiple levels, food being first and foremost, coupled with consistent service," said Todd Reber, owner and founder of Vin'tij, who added that consideration for the award normally comes after being in business for a few years.
"It's amazing," said Jack McGuckin, co-owner and chef of Bijoux. "From what I understand, it's an award they give for consistency and tenure. ... We're just honored to be appreciated and awarded that award."
Jack runs the kitchen, while his wife and co-owner Leslie handles all of the restaurant's interior designs. The couple said they're avid travelers, often gaining inspiration for food and design on their adventures.
Bijoux, which relocated to its current location in 2014, also features a full bar with happy hour everyday from 5-7 p.m.
Along with offering beer and wine — both of which come on tap — Vin'tij gets its seafood from a handful of local fishmongers, including Water Street Seafood, Cool Fish Seafood Market and Destin Ice and Seafood.
Chefs then tweak the day's main menu depending on the catches.
Reber, who opened Vin'tij in 1998, said he came up with the restaurant's name by spelling "vintage" phonetically. His venue has earned the award for more than 10 years.
Currently, Vin'tij has five chefs on staff and is open for lunch and dinner. A breakfast and an in-house juice bar are coming next year.
The main thing Reber said he's always focused on is "the marriage between food and wine," keeping things simple with the only other addition to Vin'tij's menu being beer.
Bijoux's owners, who are both from New Orleans, found love in the workplace after Leslie purchased the restaurant in 2008.
"It was my favorite restaurant, and so I bought it," she said.
Jack, who had been with the restaurant since the beginning, could have left with Bijoux's previous owners — but decided to stay. Jack and Leslie's professional relationship eventually also became personal, leading up to their marriage two years ago.
Besides focusing on the quality of their craft, the McGuckins said they also give back to the community and are involved in the Destin Charity Wine Auction and Sinfonia Gulf Coast. An aspect Jack said connects them with their customers even more.
Bijoux also offers a private wine room, and some of its popular dishes include a cast-iron skillet filet mignon, grouper almondine and a fried oyster salad.
Looking ahead, both restaurants' owners hope to continue their success and eventually reach a higher tier of Florida Trend's listings, the Golden Spoon Hall of Fame. Other local venues that have achieved that distinction include Santa Rosa Beach's Bud & Alley's and Fish out of Water.
Keeping customers happy is key to the hall of fame achievement, both owners say.
"If we get (a customer's meal) right this time, great, that's exactly what we're suppose to do, but if they come in and repeat, and the experience doesn't live up to the prior, then we're really not excelling in the industry," Reber said.