Panama City Beach – Thanks to Jan Waddy at the News Herald for this article about some local diners drive-in’s and dives!
Where: 533 E. Sixth St., Panama City
Details: (850) 785-8536
Where: 1449 Harrison Ave., Panama City
Details: (850) 769-2436
Coram’s Steak and Cake
Where: 19714 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach
Details: (850) 236-0621
Where: 2016 Thomas Drive
Details: (850) 234-8373
Where: 21828 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach
Details: (850) 233-0729
Everyone seems to have their favorite on the menus they’ve grown up with or grown to know.
From Jimmy’s Diner, which started it all in 1948, to its 1949 companion drive-in Tally-Ho in Panama City, to Sunnyside Grill in Panama City Beach, this is the food locals have fallen in love with.
If you don’t mind being called names, such as “honey” and “sweetie,” then pull up to Tally-Ho: The Great American Drive-In. There are options for “to-go” or “for here,” which will get you a tray hooked up to the car window and a spread of old-fashioned condiments, or you may dine at one of the red picnic tables.
Some swear by the “chicken box” at Tally-Ho, while others go for the sour cream logs.
Natalie Branch, manager at Tally-Ho and Jimmy’s, goes for the Cuban.
“It’s not an original Cuban,” she said. “It’s a Jimmy Branch Cuban.
Jimmy’s Diner on E. Sixth Street and Tally-Ho on Harrison Avenue were started by her grandfather, Jimmy Branch, and now are owned by her father, Johnny Branch.
If you order the Cuban at Tally-Ho, be prepared not to go anywhere for a while — it’s not portable with its two thick slabs of ham and salami oozing out between mayonnaise loaded Cuban bread with lettuce, pickles and mustard. Grip on to the door handle and brace yourself, it’s going to be a messy ride. If you manage to finish it, you will be too full to drive anywhere.
Both Branch-owned restaurants have the same menu, with the exception of Jimmy’s addition of salads and Tally-Ho serving a jumbo steak sandwich. The diner menus — burgers, corn dogs, fries and shakes — have remained unchanged since the ’40s.
The secret to their success?
“I guess same food consistency, family owned and everybody growing up knows these places and keeps coming back,” Branch said.
Fishing is what started the Corams’ diners.
About 25 years ago, the three Corams brothers often could be found catching mullet at St. Andrews State Park. “Back then, after 2, there wasn’t even a place to get a cup of coffee,” Willard Coram said. So, he and his brothers decided to open up their own place: Coram’s Steak and Cake on Thomas Drive.
“We must have been temporarily crazy or it might have been permanent. We never had any experience but we got a lot of it the first three days,” said Willard Coram, who owns Corams’ Steak and Eggs on Tyndall Parkway in Parker. “Then we got more money to start another, and another brother would take another and kept on until we all had one.”
Don Coram owns Coram’s Steak and Cake on Panama City Beach Parkway, and his brother, Charlie Coram, has Charlie Coram’s Place on U.S. 231 and W. 23rd Street in Panama City.
Perfect for breakfast or late-night, the Corams’ diners are known as the “Home of the Heavenly Hash” — hashbrowns, jalapenos, onions, chopped ham, tomatoes, green peppers and cheese. “We’re all still good friends, go out once a week, get out where we can talk,” Willard Coram said. But he admits they don’t have much time for fishing anymore. “There was nowhere to eat when we were fishing, and now we can’t go fishing — just work and eat,” he said with a laugh.
“We had breakfast at Coram’s on Back Beach road a couple of weeks ago” said Jerry Eyler of Best Panama City Beach Condo Rentals www.bestpanamacitybeachcondo.com at Celadon Beach Resort. “We wanted breakfast for lunch and the deserts were good too. We may run over to Tally-Ho and Sunnyside on our next visit.” said Eyler.
If you have really worked up an appetite, head down Front Beach Road to a hidden gem in a pink shack, Sunnyside Grill.
You might be greeted by Bongo, whose bird cage is set up by the entrance in what’s left of a miniature golf course. The arcade building once sold hot dogs, but Sunnyside serves a whole lot more.
“We’re not much to look at, but the food, man, the food’s awesome,” waitress Kelly Morgan said. The pancakes are big, thick and fluffy. “They don’t make anything small,” said waitress Pamala Battles.
Even a half order of their most popular breakfast, Western Hash, fills the plate. Delicious homestyle fries are topped with a mix of ham, onions, green peppers and tomatoes with melted cheese. Served with toast or biscuit, a half order of Western Hash is $3.95.
Battles’ favorite thing: the Prime Rib Omelette with mushrooms.
“The hours are great, because I am at work at 6, off by 2 and at the beach by 3,” Battles said.
Owner Glenn Bowker, “a working boss,” Battles said, cooks in the kitchen with Nathan Morgan, whose wife, Kelly Morgan, refers to as “a singing chef.” He sings along with BOB-FM in the space set up like an eat-in kitchen with about 10 tables and bumper stickers on the range hood.
“I tell people don’t let the look and décor scare you, because it’s really good food,” Battles said. “You meet your neighbors here.” Those neighbors include local business owners and families. “Women come here pregnant and then have babies and you see them grow up,” Battles said.
The Sunnyside crew also includes dishwasher James Wise. “Usually when it’s busy, we start cussing and throwing things at each other,” Kelly Morgan said. “You get dinner and a show.”