And now, one by one or in groups of six or 10, they are being bulldozed. Others may be spared . . . or they may not.
Life on Phuket for expat residents may never be quite the same. We remember a great meal, about 2002, at Lotus at Laypang. At that stage, the restaurant was just a fraction of the massive size it is now.
And a few years later, we suggested that a tiger prawn sandwich, bought and devoured on the upper floor level at the Som restaurant, was probably the perfect meal for Phuket.
Since then, the prices have gone up and may beachside restaurants have doubled in size, too, in some cases threatening to turn back the tide.
The tide that the restaurants weren't built to withstand comes in camouflage or military uniform. It sends in the graders and the bulldozers. It flattens bamboo and thatch effortlessly.
And let's face it, stopping the illegal appropriation of Phuket's public beaches is probably wise. Yet without the less expensive beachfront restaurants we enjoyed so much, Phuket will be different for many tourists, too.
Other businesses inland are bound to benefit, and so will many of those more expensive resort restaurants that the humble beach shacks often beat for outlook and prices.
Below, then, is our compilation of the best of the Phuket beach restaurants. Some of them are gone, some of them are fighting to survive.
As we munch our picnic lunch of salad sandwiches while sitting on a mat under the trees at Patong, Surin, Nai Yang or Nai Harn, we will miss them dearly.