Dave Rauschkolb, owner of the famous Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant, is celebrating 30 years in business this year. When Seaside founder Robert Davis’ vision of a walkable town was still more dream than reality, he invited Scott Witcoski and Rauschkolb to open a beachfront eatery. The two young men had just the right combination of restaurant experience and youthful enthusiasm, and Bud & Alley’s soon developed a well-deserved reputation for fresh, delicious food and a fun atmosphere.
“Right from the start, Scott and I decided to offer fine dining in an unpretentious, casual setting,” says Rauschkolb. “There weren’t many dining options along 30A at the time, and a lot of the restaurants closer to Destin and Panama City focused on fried seafood. Bud & Alley’s was fortunate to have an amazing Gulf-front location, and we wanted the food to be as much of an enticement as the scenery.
“We knew it would be a challenge, at least at first, because Seaside was still in its infancy and the off season was very quiet. We had a small, hard-working staff, and since Scott and I were young and didn’t have families to support, we didn’t need big salaries to survive.”
Over the years, Rauschkolb has kept the focus of the restaurant on the freshest farm/surf-to-table dining options, while expanding the restaurant’s menu, hours and special event facilities. He credits much of the restaurant’s success to its talented team of both front and back-of-house employees, many of whom have been with Bud & Alley’s for years.
In 1994, Bud & Alley’s premiered the Rooftop Bar, where customers have the best view in town of the Gulf’s most spectacular sunsets, heralded each evening by the ringing of a brass bell.
“I have a deep connection with what we have done here, both in terms of community building and owning Bud & Alley’s,” says Rauschkolb. “It’s extremely humbling to hear what the restaurant means to people. Bud & Alley’s is where people celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. It’s where marriage proposals are accepted, retirement parties are thrown and new homeowners are welcomed. My team and I continue to look for ways to improve the Bud & Alley’s experience, but we’re careful not to change too much.”
Three decades of hard work have not dulled Rauschkolb’s capacity for dreaming and his desire to innovate. In recent years, he and Carol, his wife and an accomplished interior designer, opened the adjacent Taco Bar and Pizza Bar, offering additional dining options for hungry diners as part of Bud & Alley’s Restaurant Group. Recently, Bud & Alley’s began serving breakfast on the Rooftop Deck overlooking the Gulf. Bud & Alley’s Catering Company, which manages all of the special events at the restaurant, now operates off-site, too. And still more culinary business ideas are “in the oven” as they say.