The Story of Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack in Destin, Florida
Graffiti restaurant in Destin can really be summed up in one word… Funky. The outside of the building appears seemingly normal, however, once inside you’re immediately transported into a blues-style rustic realm. There are pictures of singers and famous artists all over the place and it just has a really unique, genuine vibe.
The stage is front and center at Graffiti as they have live music just about every night. Musicians of all genres play here and most of them are locally based. It comes as no surprise that Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack has won a bunch of live music venue awards over the years.
However, the stage isn’t just for music groups as they also use it for open mic nights, wedding receptions, birthdays and big private parties. Graffiti is available for anyone that wants to get down and funky.
We met with Chuck Stiles, the man behind this funky place and found him to be a really nice, down-to-earth guy. He’s worked in food services business for most of his life and had managed multiple restaurants before opening Graffiti. At some point, he decided that instead of managing someone else’s dream, he wanted to create his own.
The story behind the restaurant name “Graffiti” is nostalgic. Chuck is originally from Arkansas and he’s been married for more than 30 years. The name of the restaurant in Arkansas he took his wife to on their first date was Graffiti. Naturally, when he was ready to open his own restaurant here in Florida he couldn’t think of a better name.
We also met with Chef Anton Guettell who is originally from a small Eastern European country called Moldova. Anton was a veterinarian in Moldova and was told about Florida’s Emerald Coast by a close friend so he came for a visit and immediately fell in love with the beautiful beaches. He decided to move to the United States and got into the Country as a veterinarian. However, once here he realized that he would have to go through more schooling to be a vet in the U.S. so he chose to pursue his other passion… Cooking.
Interview with Graffiti Restaurant Owner Chuck Stiles and Chef Anton Guettel in Destin, FL
30A Prime: Thanks for meeting with us today. Chef Anton, how long have you been working with Chuck at Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack?
Chef Anton Guettell: I’ve been with Chuck for about nine years now and I’ve been a chef for him for about 6 of those years.
30A Prime: You have a diverse selection of delicious items on your menu and your pizzas look amazing. Please tell us more about the menu here at Graffiti.
Chuck: At our previous location in Baytowne, we at one time, long ago served pizzas. Now that we’re here in our new Destin location, we’re back to serving pizza again and it’s a big part of our menu. On our menu here at Graffiti, you’ll find pizza, seafood, a great fillet and a little bit of everything else. I mean… Shrimp, scallops, calamari, grouper, pasta, burgers, chicken, you name it and we most likely offer it here at Graffiti & and Funky Blues Shack.
The size of our kitchen here at our new Destin location is much larger than the kitchen at our previous location in Sandestin. So the extra space has allowed for us to really expand our menu and offer more choices to our customers.
30A Prime: Please tell us about live music at Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack.
Chuck: Four or fives years ago we were ranked the number one live music venue in Northwest Florida by Beach TV. We won the Beachcomber Music Awards three years running. However, we didn’t win it last year because we weren’t open due to our move from Baytowne to Destin. Live music is a huge part of the vibe here at Graffiti so we hope to get back to winning awards again soon.
We feel like we’ve become even more of a music venue since moving to Destin. I was talking to the Forrest Williams Band and Forrest said he loves playing here now because Graffiti is more of a venue where people can sit and enjoy dinner. Whereas before, it was more of a late night venue. At nine o’clock we turn the lights off so that the focus is mainly on the musicians. So people are able to come, enjoy the music inside a nice environment and it’s been working out well.
30A Prime: The wall art here at Graffiti is awesome, please tell us more about it.
Chuck: I called up an artist friend of mine and asked him to stop by the restaurant. When he arrived I said to him… “Butch, I want Blues musicians”. That’s pretty much all the direction I had to give him and he created all of the art for me in about two weeks.
30A Prime: Chef Anton, please tell us about your unique journey of growing up in Eastern Europe to thriving as a Chef here Destin, FL.
Chef Anton Guetell: When I first came to the United States of America about 12 years ago I got in as a veterinarian. I spent 8 years in school and had a full veterinarian degree. However, when I arrived here I realized I didn’t actually want to pursue a career as a veterinarian.
My second dream was working in a restaurant because as I studied to be a vet, I worked in a lot of restaurants to support myself financially. I studied in Romania, Moscow and so I worked in different types of restaurants all over the world. As I worked in restaurants to support myself while in veterinarian school, I kind of fell in love with food and how the restaurant runs and what you can do in there and how creative you can get.
A restaurant career was always my backup plan. I had that in my back pocket so if being a veterinarian didn’t work out, I would go into the restaurant business.
30A Prime: How does working and living here in the United States compare to Moldova?
Chef Anton Guetell: People can say what they want to say but there is no other Country like the United States. In America, if you’re a hard worker you’re going to be appreciated and rewarded. If you work hard here, if you pursue your career there are a lot of people who know how to appreciate you and reward you. That ain’t happening back in Europe and I’m going to tell that to everybody that wants to listen here in America.
30A Prime: It sounds like Chef Anton is someone you can really rely on here at Graffiti…
Chuck: You know, I’ve had a lot of chefs and it’s a little different when you find one that you know is committed. You don’t have to worry about him not showing up because I’ve had chefs that haven’t shown up on Mother’s Day weekend. He’s been with me so long because I can count on him and he does a great job.
30A Prime: Would you like to give a closing remark?
Chuck and Anton: Come to Graffiti and get Funky Tonight!
You can learn more about Graffiti restaurant and the Funky Blues Shack in Destin via their website here… Graffitifbs.com