The Shrimp Shack knows what it takes to prepare a Gulf favorite By Susan Benton
There is something magical that happens to people, and to the way they eat near bodies of water. Salt air and sandy feet lead the way to seafood shacks serving the freshest available, and in Seaside, it can be found at The Shrimp Shack.
A humble eatery born out of love on Valentine’s Day after an inspired trip to Apalachicola, owners Bill and Heavenly Dawsons’ restaurant was awarded one of America’s Best Seafood Shacks in 2011 by Travel + Leisure.
The eatery sits atop one of the most magnificent spots on 30A, nestled among the sea oats and rolling Gulf dunes. After ordering at the counter, seating options include the rear screened dining porch, the new beachside deck under the magnolias, and the stunning elevated pavilion overlooking the white sand beaches and emerald green waters for which the Beaches of South Walton are so well known. It is the perfect place to enjoy a sunset meal while taking in breathtaking Gulf views of Seaside.
Seeking a classic waterside menu for their seafood eatery with an unexpected twist, the Dawsons (who are something of experts as the owners of four other popular eateries in Seaside) called on Paul Johnson, their main purveyor from the Seaside Farmers Market, for the restaurant’s fresh local produce. They then sourced their bread from Masada Bakery; a 30-year-old artisanal bakery serving only certified organic whole grain breads and also supplies the buns daily for their sibling restaurants, Pickles Burgers & Shakes and Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs.
With a dedicated oyster shucker on site who has shucked well over 22,000 succulent Apalachicola bivalves since opening, The Shrimp Shack’s popular plump juicy oysters are served ice-cold and raw, steamed or baked. A couple of menu favorites include The Shack Style, baked with onions and Colby jack cheese, and the Rutherford’s (Bill Dawson’s middle name) baked with spinach, onion, garlic and feta cheese.
The best selling menu item, and my all time favorite, is the peel-and-eat steamed royal reds; shrimp that live in deep water over 100 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, which are served with warm drawn butter, fingerling potatoes and corn on the cob. These beautiful crustaceans have a taste that is sweet, firm and similar to that of lobster.
The Shrimp Shack also offers one of the best warm water lobster rolls available in the Panhandle. Moist and succulent chunks of perfectly prepared lobster cuddle together in a fresh baked bun, served ready for enjoyment.
Gumbo at The Shrimp Shack is not to be missed and is made fresh daily, simmering on site for hours prior to serving. It is the perfect go-to comfort food after a long day at the beach.
Spice things up a bit with a shake or two of The Shack Seasoning, something Heavenly Dawson concocted herself with R.L. Schreiber, creating the eaterie’s own unique blend.
Salads at The Shrimp Shack are bountiful and fresh with all dressings made from scratch in-house using family recipes. Heavenly Dawson’s Tampa roots, and the Greek community that influenced her, inspired the Tarpon Springs Greek Salad. Filled with beets, scallions, kalamata olives, and potato salad — a real showstopper.
For non- seafood lovers, The Shrimp Shack offers a hearty Cuban sandwich prepared with thinly sliced meats, cheese, pickles, layered then hot-pressed to perfection.
Quench your thirst with boutique wines offered by the bottle or glass, or choose from the vast selection of American and international beers, or Stewart’s soft drinks.
For the culinary finale’, order a slice of the famed key lime pie. Heavenly Dawson says, “We have had key lime aficionados try our pie, and they say it is not too sweet or tart, it is just right.”
The Shrimp Shack is located east of Bud & Alley’s at 2236 East County Road 30-A, Seaside. 10 a.m. – until. (850) 231-3799.
Susan Benton is the go to resource for foodies visiting Pensacola to Panama City Beach. She is a food and travel journalist with published articles and photography in many local, regional and national publications. Her website is 30AEATS.com where she writes about the secrets of Gulf Coast food.
Visit The Shrimp Shack online