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45 Central

Posted on May 01, 2018 in Jim Shirley , Wine Bar , Small Plates , May-June 2018

The Monte Cristo at 45 Central is a brunch favorite.

There are few places along the 30A corridor, or South Walton for that matter, where one can find adult-only dining options. But at 45 Central, the perfect date night stops here.

Chef Jim Shirley, owner of the well-known Great Southern Café and a bevy of other sister restaurants, has curated a finely crafted wine bar with hard-to-find selections that are optimally paired with a menu offering of small plates. Some of those include marinated jumbo lump crab West Indies salad, edamame hummus (my favorite), a variety of charcuterie and specialty cheese trays, and a short but sweet sushi menu.

The ambiance reminds me of a cozy European bistro, and is just right for lingering, not only at one of the tables or at the beautiful long handcrafted wooden bar inside the restaurant space, but also outside on the patio (aptly named the vine-yard) where people-watching takes center stage over nibbles and sips of delicious varietals. Children under 21 years of age are allowed to dine al fresco before 6 p.m.

I happened to be visiting on a Wednesday evening, just as Joyce Russell, the paella chef, was firing up her signature dish for her hungry audience. Also served on Friday, the enormous authentic paella pan is filled with sausage, chicken, and the most delectable gulf seafood, making for an experience and a truly memorable meal. Head chef, Serghei Griu, sources the freshest local ingredients with a focus on flavor that complements the wines offered. I would recommend sipping on one of the Spanish wines by the glass when savoring bites of the paella.

The exceptional palates of Richard Liveakos, the 45 Central fine wine specialist, along with Shirley, decide what grapes 45 Central will carry. These two experts are able to locate those rare bottles that others can only covet. Many of the exclusive vintages (45 or more) are sold by the glass, so 45 Central uses Coravin Wine technology, a revolutionary system, to ensure freshness. It allows pouring without corking the bottle. And, all wines are available for purchase to take home.

On the weekend, brunch is also served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., complete with $2 mimosas on Sunday. The waffles rubbed with sugar nibs and injected with chocolate filling are popular, as is the Croque Monsieur that is basically a toasted ham and Gruyère cheese sandwich slathered with béchamel sauce before being crisped in the oven. I’m a fan of the Monte Cristo, a sandwich filled with ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese that has been egg batter dipped and skillet fried. Not for the faint of heart, it is especially sumptuous when enjoyed with a glass of Kokomo Chardonnay, part of the Seaside Wine Project, a collection of wines with the Seaside label.

An award of excellence Wine Spectator winner, 45 Central is located at 45 Central Square in the heart of Seaside. They open daily at 2 p.m., 9 a.m. on the weekend, and serve until midnight seven days a week. Sushi is served until 9 p.m. and light bites from 2 to 4 p.m. Half-priced wines by the glass are available during happy hour every day from 4 to 6 p.m., and paella is offered every Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m. on the patio for $10 a plate. Call (850) 231-4545 for more information or visit fortyfivecentral.com.

Susan Benton is a food and travel writer with published articles, recipes, and photography in many local, regional and national publications. Her website is 30AEATS.com where she writes about the secrets of Gulf Coast cuisine.