Summer In The City: Zachary’s, Downtown PC’s Budding Vieux Carre


Our Summer in the City Series is all about new and exciting things you can spend the summer enjoying. From one end of Panama City to the other, we’ll bring you all that the city has to offer

World-renowned jazz bass player, Steve Gilmore says, “There is nowhere like this in the area.”

Gilmore moved to Panama City permanently years ago when his health and the health of his wife started to be “iffy.” He has played with jazz greats such as Tony Bennett, the Phil Woods Orchestra and George Coleman. Now, the Gilmore’s weekly routine includes the Wednesday night Jazz Jam at Zachary’s American Grill. While Steve plays with a host of local musicians, his wife Shirley snuggles into a plush couch and kicks up her feet with a close friend to listen as the smooth jazz fills the room.

Enjoy unique comfort food in one of downtown Panama City’s most enchanting digs. This place feels like several of the spunky restaurants from the New Orleans’ vieux carre, the French Quarter, blended into one fun hangout. Rooms don a variety of accoutrements showcasing a different genre and vibe for each eating space: Bohemian, Middle Eastern, country backyard, college bar, jazz digs.

Whether it’s a hamburger, an authentic Cuban sandwich, Tex-Mex Meatloaf or a Bangkok Salad, Zachary’s has a snack, lunch or evening meal for you.  Zachary’s is a place Earnest Hemingway would have frequented, stopping by several times a week for a Cubano Frenchie and a cold beer. If you know anything about Hemingway, he rather enjoyed a good meal and was known to stay in a place he loved for beer…after beer…after beer. At Zachary’s, friends shake hands and place their order for Loaded Fries in the sultry lighting of the aged downtown PC building.

Named after owner Karen’s son Zachary, a Marine stationed in North Carolina in sniper school, Zachary’s American Grill has been in our community since 2009. The restaurant started on Harrison Avenue and has since moved to their current location on Grace Avenue. Owners Cody and Karen Biggs are pleased to be in downtown Panama City and are encouraged to see the local businesses thrive and grow.

The Biggs’ recently loosened up their menu to bring more sandwiches and snacks with reasonable prices in a struggling economy. Cody says the fare of Zachary’s is “down right American.” He hopes that people do not see the bridge as a barrier and take a chance on his restaurant.

Appe-teasers (Appetizers, Served after 5 p.m.)

My good friend Ashlee said it is much more fun to call appetizers “appe-teasers.” I totally get this reference after enjoying the starters at Zachary’s. Whether you are in the mood for Thai, Italian, Cajun or the simplicity of Americana cuisine, there is a taste bud tantalization for you.  A truly sinful delight, Loaded Fries, includes a pile of shoestring French fries hand-tossed in cheddar cheese, topped with scallions, bacon and…well…more cheese! It’s a party in your mouth.  If you are attracted to a New Orleans-esque flavor, enjoy the Classic Shrimp Remolaude. Tender Gulf shrimp are tossed in a zesty house remoulade sauce, served on a bed of field greens and drizzled with sriachi. An interesting dish that I tried once merely out of curiosity was the Caramelized Onion and Bleu Cheese Quesadilla. Even if you are not a fan of bleu cheese, I double-dog-dare-you to try this starter. You will be glad that you did. (All appetizers are reasonably priced, ranging from $3 – $8.)

On the Lighter Side (Soups and Salads)

This house salad is surprisingly to die for, and this coming from a girl who does not love the salad! Do not fear the traditional chain restaurant bowl of anemic iceberg lettuce with some shards of shredded cheese and a crouton.  This House Salad is a blend of fresh cut romaine, field greens, bleu cheese crumbles, cucumbers, red onions, Craisins, sunflower seeds, croutons and finished with a signature Champagne vinaigrette.  Is your mouth watering yet? Should be! Other salads include BBQ Chicken Salad, Buffalo Chicken Salad, Bangkok Salad and Southwest Salad.  (Salads are all $9 and you can choose to substitute Shrimp or Salmon in any of these salads for just $2.) If soup tickles your fancy, try a bowl of Zachary’s Sweet Potato Bisque for $4 a cup or $6 a bowl.

The Pat Down (a.k.a. Hand-Patted Burgers, Made to Order)

You can rest assured that all of Zachary’s burgers are hand-patted and cooked to order. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a good hand-patted burger. Enjoy Big Bill’s Beef and Bleu Burger with caramelized onions, bleu cheese, American cheese, topped with a homemade Garlic Basil Aioli. Or, choose the Fire House Burger, which would be my brother’s favorite. This is one of those “enter at own risk” kind of burgers. It’s like your taste buds have gone on a quick-thrill roller coaster. The Fire House Burger has caramelized onions, bacon and Zachary’s signature firehouse jalapeno cheese sauce.  It’s totally worth the heart burn that MAY ensue. If you like to take matters into your own hands, build your own burger. Just about anything you could wish to go on a burger is available for you to build away! (Burgers are all $8.50 and are served with southwest pasta salad. Substitute Shoestring French fries for $1 or Sweet Potato Fries for $1.50.)

“Frenchie” Bliss (House Sandwiches on grilled French bread)

The dish that will keep me craving Zachary’s was my most recent pick – the Hot Ham & Cheese Frenchie. As is characteristic of this place, the chef chanced a unique twist on a traditional ham and cheese combo. On first bite, I threw my head back and made an inappropriate noise at the table. My boyfriend said, “What?” I told him that was sandwich speak for, “Oh yeah!” The Hot Ham & Cheese Frenchie comes with sliced Hickory Pit Ham, Provolone and Swiss Cheese as well as tomato, red onion, Honey Dijon Aioli on French bread. So good! Some other savory Frenchies include the Cubano (traditional Cuban with shaved meat), the Chicken Cordon Bleu, the Hawaiian Chicken and many more! (Sandwiches range in prices from $7 – $8.50 and are served with southwest pasta salad. Substitute Shoestring French Fries for $1 or Sweet Potato Fries for $1.50.)

The Big Shebang (Entrees, Served after 5 p.m.)

If your mom ever made you eat meatloaf, thank her. It’s a wonderful American delight and we should celebrate it. Don’t be afraid of the meatloaf. Karen Biggs, joint owner of Zachary’s, blends a meatloaf masterpiece she calls Tex-Mex Meatloaf including roasted corn, tomatoes and chilies. This southwestern inspired meatloaf is then topped with chipotle cream gravy and served over mashed potatoes with green beans on the side. Come get ya some! The entrée menu also includes house creations such as Zachary’s House Filet of Beef, Sherry Portobello Filet, Chicken Portabella and several other savory meals. (Entrees range in price from $14 to $24.)

“Somewhere That’s Green” (Veggie Delights)

Cody wanted me to make sure to let vegetarian friends know that Zachary’s will always have tasty treats for you. Veggie burgers are available and can be topped with any fun burger additions listed on the main burger menu ($6). The Grilled Veggie Frenchie is served with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, red onions, Provolone and Swiss Cheese topped with Chipotle Aioli ($7). On the entrée menu, Veggie friends can enjoy the Pasta Angelica which is a blend of sautéed veggies including fresh mushrooms, spinach, sweet peas and sundried tomatoes. This is tossed with a house Parmesan cheese cream sauce atop a bed of angel hair pasta, dusted with Parmesan and crisp green onions ($12).

Melt In Your Mouth (Desserts)

Top off your delicious meal or end your evening with a cup of coffee and one of Zachary’s mouth-watering desserts.  Try a piece of Outrageous Chocolate Cake, a four-layer dense dark chocolate cake filled with rich chocolate ganache and covered in a silky chocolate frosting.  Or, may I tempt you with a piece of Mile High Peanut Butter Pie or Key Lime Pie. (Desserts range in prices from $5-$6.)

My Take

If Zachary’s does not thrive in our community, Panama City should go outside, get a branch from the largest tree and prepare for a spanking.

Zachary’s is located in historic downtown Panama City on 425 Grace Avenue. Call Zachary’s today for dine-in, carry out, large or small meal catering at 850.557.3522. You can also visit Zachary’s online at



Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport – Happy Birthday!

One year and 800,000 passengers later, the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is regarded a huge success.  Today was the one year anniversary to the opening of the new airport in Panama City Beach.  The celebration included a gathering, speeches and the unveiling of a huge “rock” that commemorated the sponsors involved in the Grand Opening one year ago today.

Serving 800,000 passengers in the past year, the new location has catapulted the airport traffic above Tallahassee and just below Pensacola’s airport which sees an estimated 1 million annual passengers.  The current traffic is three times greater than the traffic the old airport saw annually.

In addition to making our area more accessible to vacation travelers across the country, the new airport has also decreased the average per flight rate by 31%.  This is an average across the board, factoring in rates from Delta as well.

The new lower rates has rippled through local industry, offering savings that’s enabled companies to hire more people, bring on new projects and overall expand.  Applied Research, who employs around 200 people, 100 of which have PhD’s and Master degrees in various arenas, spends roughly $700k in airline tickets every year.  The 30% savings has resulted in around $216k that they’ve been able to keep in their pocket to use in their business, reported Glen McDonald, their Senior VP.

The new airport’s Southwest carrier services 4 locations with 8 flights a day, which equates to 2,000 seats every day.

Commissioner Mike Thomas said people would complain about just about anything.  He recounted this morning that he got a call at 7:30 am about a rooster crowing in their neighborhood off Thomas Drive.  He said he welcomed that call, mentioning that if that’s all someone has to complain about, it must be a beautiful day.  He said he fielded tons of other complaints over the years about the new airport but agreed it was a success and was proud to have supported it in its development.

All in all, it was a fun event.  The growth of our area is apparent with the new airport, and no doubt, it’s opened up a whole new world of possibilities for local travel out and visiters traveling in.

Social Media Workshop – Part Deux

The Panama City Beaches Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Social Media workshop and WE are presenting!  If you’ve been wanting to know about how to use Facebook as a page, how to get people to Like you on Facebook and how to schedule and connect your networks, this is the workshop for you!  We did the first of this series for the Chamber last month.  This is part of their Navigator, the Beach Chamber of Commerce’s small business initiative.

The workshop will be this Thursday, May 26, 2011 from 11 am to 1 pm at the FSU-PC Holley Academic Center.

Pre-registration is required and there is a cost of $30 per person.  If you want to come, call the Chamber at 850-235-1159.

Grand Lagoon Bridge Opens TODAY!!

Ok, so it’s actually not quite as dramatic as the headline, but the new Grand Lagoon Bridge roadway is set to transfer traffic to the new bridge today.  Construction is set to be complete by mid summer, and they are goaled at having the temporary bridge out of the way by then.

They started construction on the bridge back in October of 2009 and have largely stayed on schedule for the duration of the project.

The new bridge is 18 feet at it’s center, up from 10 feet on the previous bridge.  This huge for local Grand Lagoon residents since it not only opens up the lagoon for better circulation, it also allows larger boats to pass under it.

The bridge was funded by grants and the 2009 Economic Stimulus Fund.

You Missed a Great Season of Pops, Or did you?

The final show for this season’s Panama City Pops was last Saturday evening at Arnold High School, and let me tell you, it was amazing.  I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t think the “orchestra” was my cup of tea.  I had really never considered going.  It had been recommended to me for literally years, but I always just brushed it off as something I wouldn’t be interested in.

Boy was I wrong.

My years of neglect to attend the Pops was a large mistake.  I’ve missed countless performances and unforgettable experiences.  There is just no words to describe the feeling you get as raw emotion washes through you as the pure sounds of live instruments fill your ears and everything around you.  My wife and I had a fantastic time and we’ll definitely be back.

You know how it is.  Is watching football on TV ever as exciting as actually going to the stadium and watching it live?  Of course, the real frequencies, as nature intended them, pulsating through your body helps too.  You can feel the bass in your gut and violin strings in your tear ducts.

There are only four shows a year.

The season finale was last week, and the next season doesn’t start until the fall (October, maybe?), so you still have plenty of time to resolve that you’re going next year.  This past season, the shows were in October, January, March and May, respectively.

Here were the shows of this past season:

  • Symphonic Jubilation
  • Battle of the Batons
  • Pops Magic
  • Moonlight Serenade

The shows were always at 7:30 pm.

Pops is on the beach.

For you beach people, the Pops is close at hand – at Arnold High School’s auditorium.  Obviously, this is convenient.  The venue was great, easy to get to and really lent itself well to the event.

If you’ve not gone in the past, you need to make it a priority to go in the future.  You’ll be glad you did.

In my wife’s words: “It was unbelievable, I had a fantastic time.”

For more information on the Pops, visit their website.

Video of some of the more dramatic parts.

Win a 7 Night Vacation to Calypso Resort

Dying for a beach vacation?  Want it to be free?  Sterling Resorts is going to hook you up!

In promotion of their new Facebook page for Calypso Resort and Towers, they’ve launched a FREE vacation giveaway.  Here are the details:

  • 7 night stay.
  • Can be used anytime, this summer or winter, but needs to be used in 2011.
  • Good for any two bedroom gulf-front condo.
  • Also giving away:
    • $50 giftcard to Pier Park
    • 5 movie tickets to The Grande

Like I said, they’re doing this to promote their Facebook page, so in order to enter, you have to go Like their page, then enter your email address on the “WIN FREE VACAY” tab.

Here is their Facebook page –>

The Southwest Effect Coming To A Summer Near You (Finally)

Over the last year or so, you’ve heard the coined phrased a million times, “The Southwest Effect,” or, more specifically, the increase in airline travel to and from a community after service is inaugurated by Southwest Airlines. That phrase, and it’s somewhat pretentious definition, was the cornerstone in the big push to get the new airport placed, built and quickly up and running. You’ve waited with your doors open expecting the flood of Chicagoans, Tennesseans and the like to see our local marketing efforts and low fares into the “World’s Most Beautiful Beach” and show up with money in hand. Well, that hasn’t exactly happened yet, (insert BP insult here), but that’s not to say that this summer won’t see a spike in airline travel and, consequently, more traffic to your business. Recent trends, suggest, the “Effect” might be happening very soon.

Airline Travel:

Earlier this year, now former airport Executive Director, Randy Curtis, stated that statistics taken from the July-August season in 2010 compared to the old-airport’s numbers during the same time frame experienced a significant increase. In July-August 2009, the old airport handled about 30,000 monthly passengers. In 2010, however, during those same summer months, the numbers jumped to 83,000 passengers (per month) despite negative, national media coverage of BP’s oil disaster and the nation’s economical hardships.

Randy Curtis simplified the numbers-by stating that this year’s expectations are leaning towards “3x’s the number of passengers the old airport handled during the same time frame”.

So what does that mean? Well, quite simply, the “Effect” is in effect. What everyone expected from the new airport and the arrival of Southwest Airlines was that more flights would produce more visitors and a broader clientele. The first half of that is already true. We’ve essentially tripled the amount of passengers coming into Panama City Beach. So, does that necessarily mean more money?

Hotel Booking Numbers:

In a recent article, we explained how Hoteliers were cautiously optimistic about this year’
s tourist season. It seems that optimism is beginning to produce actual numbers and the numbers are good. We spoke with two local hotels and a condo owner renting properties on his own. In all three cases, numbers were up so far. One hotel GM even went as far as to say that Thunder Beach was “the best one we’ve ever had financially”. But it isn’t actual heads-in-beds that had everyone raving.

Nick Armstrong, GM of the Chateau Motel, said, “Our early bookings are up, compared to last year where people were more likely to wait until the last minute.”

Early booking numbers suggest that a). people are no longer worried about Oil, b). potential vacationers are more willing to set aside money they would/could not last year and c). individuals booking flights are also booking rooms.

If this trend continues, by the end of winter, hotel and condo numbers should be definitive as to whether the “Effect” has had any effect on them.

Increased Staffing:

If you drove around the beach just before Spring Break, you saw “Now Hiring” signs all over the place. This is not uncommon for our area as our seasons dictate the hiring increases. What is uncommon is that the “Now Hiring” signs are still up. In a recent visit to Pier Park, lots of establishments are hiring more people to help deal with the more individuals coming through their doors. Restaurants have bulked up staff members for both the increase in visitors and because of the numbers they project to do this summer. What was once “cautious optimism” is becoming serious preparation. This, of course, suggests that not only do the numbers show an increase in visitors now, but that our little town could be in for a BIG summer.



5 Things To Consider Before Booking A Room On Panama City Beach

5. Pet Friendliness

You’d be shocked at how many vacationers make the assumption that all Panama City Beach accommodations are pet friendly. In fact, the truth is, less than a third allow pets. So many vacationers don’t ask the hotel and bring Fido along only lose their reservation on the account of the hotel/condo not accepting pets. If you intend to bring your dog or cat or your albino Burmese python, you might want to call ahead before you hit the book button. While definitely in the minority, there are some pet friendly accommodations on Panama City Beach and the need for others to get on board is growing. But do call before bringing any furry friends.

4. Gulf View vs Gulf Front

Not all Panama City Beach rooms are gulf front. No, really, it’s true. And even while some accommodations are sitting on the gulf front, not all the rooms within them have gulf views. This is the root of many upset vacationers expecting to wake up every morning to the sound of absconding sea, only to wake up to roadside or a nice blank wall. When booking a room, ask if the room is gulf front. If the operator says “yes, our rooms are gulf view,” this doesn’t necessarily mean that your room is directly facing the gulf. You may have a room that faces the pool and has a gulf view from a particular angle. Don’t be afraid to require confirmation before booking. Is it gulf front or gulf view? These people get paid to answer that question just for you.

3.Spring Breakers Destroy Everything

Every year, from the end of February to the beginning of April, Panama City Beach is overrun with college students looking to take a party break from school. While in the past, Panama City Beach has been the Spring Break Capital of the World, the identity of the city has changed, and so too, more and more, is that perception. Still, though, the kids to PCB come and they come to party. Because of this, vacationers are sometimes reluctant to vacation to PCB for fear those breakers broke everything they could get their hands on. In rare situations this is true, but very rare. All students under 25 are required to pay up front cash security deposits anywhere from $200.00 to $500.00. If anything is broken, they lose that money. So the kids have fun, but desperately want that money back; how else are they going to get back to school? In addition, not all accommodations accept the under 25 crowd and simply don’t rent during that season. Panama City Beach accommodations are required to have security on property, in some cases off duty police officers, to make sure property isn’t destroyed in any way.

2. Costs

This one is a biggy. So you want to book a Panama City Beach room and you believe calling direct, 8 months ahead of schedule, will get you the best rate. While you are more likely to be guaranteed a room by booking early, that does not mean you’ll get the best price. In another scenario, you’ve been reluctant to book early hoping you might save money by taking advantage of last-minute specials, only to find every hotel/condo you wanted completely sold out. It’s a tough go either way you look at it. But, Panama City Beach is lucky to be affiliated at home with booking services like That gives potential vacationers the ability to do some serious price comparisons. Call the hotel/condo direct, get a price, then check out online services and compare. You are more likely to find a great deal as well as a few awesome package deals that include things like food, attractions and even free gas into one price. But do be careful. Some accommodations have additional fees. While you may think you’ve found a great deal, keep in mind that the base rate isn’t the only thing that will determine your total bill. Be sure to ask what taxes, resort fees, parking costs, energy surcharges, and other odds and ends will apply to your final tally. Even if one hotel has a lower base rate, it may end up being a more expensive option once all the extras are added in.

1. Overcrowded/Loud

Most vacationers, including myself, vacation for many reasons, none more important than just relaxing…getting away from everything. Panama City Beach’s biggest myth is that it is overcrowded and loud during the vacation season making it difficult to truly relax. The truth is, yes there are lots of people vacationing just like you, but there’s more than enough space and opportunity to just relax. In fact, many of the accommodations on Panama City Beach have added features like in-house spas, movie theaters, bars and restaurants to allow you full detachment. So you can just sit back, enjoy the beach and really, really relax.

Southwest Airlines buys AirTran Airways [DEAL CLOSED]

In a move that will inch them closer to being the largest airline in the US, Southwest Airlines closed the purchase of AirTran Airways Monday.  The airline already flies more passengers per year, over 100 million, but most of them are vacation travelers, rather than business travelers.  This purchase move is said to increase their leverage to capture the higher-fare-paying business traveler.

Acquisition benefits to Southwest Airlines
  • Gains access to Washington’s Reagan National Airport
  • Acquired gates in New York’s LaGuardia Airport
  • Acquires AirTran’s hub in Atlanta
  • Will increase passenger traffic by 25%

As of right now, it’s unclear how Southwest’s $1 billion purchase of AirTran will effect the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.  It’s assumed that Southwest will integrate AirTran’s routes with their own, but it’s too early to tell how this will  pan out.  Obviously a huge element of this buy is the acquisition of the Atlanta hub as this is highly sought after in the business travel arena.  Of course, the Atlanta part of this deal is particularly interesting to us as that area has always been a great feeder to our market.  If access to Atlanta was easier, we may be able to expect a boost in tourism travel from there.