Along the Florida Gulf Coast, our lives are centered around the catch of the day, farm fresh ingredients sourced from local markets, and come summer, the coldest, sweetest treats.
It’s no surprise that a large part of our area’s livelihood, and a number of annual events, are based on the hottest food trends, and Seaside’s offerings are among the best.
Here’s a run-down of some of the most famous and mouth-watering dishes to bring a fresh perspective to your dining experience.
Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant
Founded in 1987 by a couple of surfers on their way to catch a wave, Bud & Alley’s is named after the town founder’s dog, and the restaurant owner’s cat. Known as the place to enjoy a cocktail on the rooftop deck as the sun dips below the horizon, they are also famous for their no filler, jumbo lump crab cakes that are finished with a drizzle of lemon butter. Make sure to try the fried brussels sprouts with hazelnuts at their sister restaurant, Pizza Bar, and the shrimp tacos with house made avocado salsa from Taco Bar.
Great Southern Café
Brought to life by Chef Jim Shirley during Mardi Gras in 1998, Grits A Ya Ya was created as sustenance for Chef Jim and his friends to survive the celebration. Since then, the unique grits have become Shirley’s quintessential dish, and a coveted menu item at Great Southern Café. No visit to Seaside would be complete without diving into the blackened Gulf shrimp served on a bed of smoked gouda cheese grits that are topped with bacon and finished with a spinach cream sauce.
Photo courtesy Great Southern Cafe
And you won’t want to miss a visit to 45 Central to experience the authentic seafood paella, or the Airstream Food Truck, The Meltdown On 30A, for the Smokin’ Turkey with pepper jack cheese, bacon and avocado, both restaurants in Jim Shirley Enterprises.
Pickle’s Burgers & Shakes
Originally established in 1993 in only 48 square feet of space, Pickle’s has grown in size and popularity with their grass fed and sustainably sourced beef burgers and hand spun milkshakes. The menu item that keeps locals and visitors returning time and time again? The famous deep-fried pickles, of course. The tasty treats provide the perfect item to nosh on while people watching as you take a beach break. If you’re looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, head to sister restaurant It’s Heavenly, for the house made strawberry shortcake, or over to Dawson’s Yogurt & Fudgeworks, for the fudge dipped and sprinkle covered Oreo on a stick. Foodies also need to try the signature steamed lobster roll from The Shrimp Shack, and the sausage and cheese kolache (the famous hand-held breakfast treat) brought from Texas by the owners and served at Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs on Airstream Row.
Family owned and operated since 1988, Modica Market is a specialty and gourmet grocery that was featured in the Jim Carey film, the Truman Show. Another fun fact? The enormous Modica Market mimosa is made to order with freshly squeezed orange juice and is the go-to refreshment for those perusing The Seaside Farmers Market on weekends.
Amavida Coffee Roasters
An award-wining roaster and purveyor of organic and fair trade specialty coffee and tea, Amavida is famous for making the best cup of joe in South Walton. Make sure to order the Everything Avocado Sourdough Toast, topped with pickled red onions and fresh lime juice.
Seaside’s Airstream Row is famous for its ‘street theatre’ as hungry patrons gather in droves to satisfy their cravings with food prepared at one of the custom retrofitted Airstreams. At Frost Bites, which has been serving up shave ice since 1994, plan to try the Island Breeze topped with graham cracker crumbs and sour starfish gummies.
Though Barefoot BBQ serves up some of the finest smoked meats in the South, the BBQ Nachos are celebrated among food lovers young and old.
If you’re searching for handheld eats to enjoy on the go, pick up the Gyro Wrap from Mr. Gyro Hero, who moved to the row after being one of the most popular vendors at the Seaside Farmers Market.
30A’s newest juice bar and café The Green Stream is serving up healthy fare including acai bowls, smoothies, and cold pressed juices. You can’t go wrong ordering the Ginger Zinger made with pineapple, ginger, and orange.
With a finely curated menu that stems from the co-owner’s Cuban heritage, croquetas, tostones, chicharrones, and make your own bowls are all stand-out features. But it’s the traditional Cuban sandwich, The Cubano, that has warmed this food writer’s heart. The owners also brought a taste of France to the beach at Crepes de Soliel on Airstream row, which offers sweet and savory options, with Le Classique, a stuffed ham, gruyere cheese, and egg crepe being the most popular.
Susan Benton, a longtime 30A local, is the go-to resource for foodies visiting Pensacola to Panama City Beach. She is a food and lifestyle writer 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.