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Posted on Mar 01, 2013 in Pickle's Burger & Shake , Dawson , March-April 2013

Seaside is a special place for Bill and Heavenly Dawson. Bill, from Florence, S.C., met town founder Robert Davis while on a trip here with a friend when only a few houses were built. He appreciated Davis’ vision for the town and bought a lot right away. Later, he bought another lot and soon after opened one of Seaside’s first businesses.

Dawson’s Yogurt and Fudge Works opened July 4, 1988, and has been serving sweet treats ever since. Bill later introduced the heaven-sent love of his life, aptly named Heavenly, to his little piece of paradise. “He proposed to me at Seaside,” Heavenly tells. “We opened Pickle’s in April 1993 and got married at the Tupelo Street Beach Pavilion in May.”

Heavenly had worked in the food business since childhood. “And of course, being the oldest in a big family, I always helped out in the kitchen,” she says with a bright smile. Their new eatery was a modest snack shack with a cute name. Pickle’s Snack Station, which started out as a 48-square-foot hut, was referred to as the temple. Since its early days, Pickle’s evolved and expanded a little every year, and is now known as Pickle’s Burger & Shake. The restaurant has a casual ’50s-burger-joint-on-the-beach vibe by design. “Everything was farm-to-table back then,” Heavenly says. “And that’s our philosophy now.”

Pickle’s recently expanded its outdoor seating and introduced a new menu, unveiled in 2012. “Families love the pickles at Pickle’s,” Heavenly says. “For years, people have come from all over just to have our pickles.” But it was the Dawsons’ commitment to the farm-to-table approach that elevated the restaurant to a new level, as Heavenly patiently searched for a grass-fed beef and free range chicken farm, where the animals roam freely — grazing and pecking, rather than living in mono-cultural confinement. They found it at White Oak Pastures, the largest USDA Certified Organic farm in Georgia. The Dawsons even took the employees to the farm to educate them on the humanely produced meat and free-range chicken. “It took me a while to find the right farm,” Heavenly says. “I wanted to be confident we could provide a quality product.”

Now that they have the best quality of beef, chicken and turkey burgers, Heavenly perfected a harmonious balance of flavors for the perfect seasoning about which Pickle’s customers rave.

Heavenly next ventured on a quest for the perfect bun and found it at Masada Bakery in Atlanta, which ships fresh brioche buns to Pickle’s every day. The produce, from local farmers, is also brought in fresh daily. “With all our businesses, we carry items that are good for you, making sure they come from good sources,” Heavenly says of Pickle’s and Dawson’s Yogurt, as well as the Dawsons’ other Seaside eateries — Heavenly’s Shortcakes, Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs and The Shrimp Shack.

To call Heavenly a food perfectionist would be accurate. She worked with G.S. Gelato’s Guido Trevelini to make the ideal butterfat and custom flavor the ice cream for what she describes as the perfectly rich and creamy milkshake, with names like Salted Caramel and Orange Crush. Debuting soon is the Blueberry Cobbler shake, made with real blueberry cobbler, of course.

It’s the attention to detail, business sense and passion for food that has led to the Dawsons’ success. “Creating a great Seaside experience for all the day-trippers and vacationers is very rewarding,” Heavenly says. “We feel grateful for the opportunities we’ve had.”

Try Heavenly’s favorite burger: Ground chicken burger with Monterey Jack cheese and pickled okra — with an Orange Crush milkshake. “It tastes like a Dreamsicle!” Heavenly says.

Pickle’s Burger & Shake
2236 Scenic Highway 30A
(850) 231-5686
Open daily 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Breakfast 9-11a.m. weekdays and 8-11 a.m. weekends

Visit Pickle's Burger & Shake online