Since moving to Texas I’ve heard a lot about the 30A area of Florida, which is a group of small, unique, and charming Florida Beach towns along County Road 30A, settled between Panama City and Destin. Scot and I have visited numerous towns in Florida but have never made it to the panhandle and the idea of the beautiful water and white sands was very appealing. We booked the trip and flew into Panama City, so let’s start from that side and travel west as I share with you my 10 favorite eateries along 30A.
The first town we stopped in was Inlet Beach. Whenever we arrive at a new location, we always like to find a local grocery store where we can pick up some wine and check out the lay of the land. The Destin Ice Market 30A is a beautiful seafood market with lots of wine, cheese, and various prepared foods. Scot lucked out because if we were driving I probably would have spent a couple hundred dollars there. Their spices, mixers, and gourmet accoutrements are totally up my alley. I do like to cook if my Airbnb is properly equipped but we planned dinners for every night that we were going to be in Rosemary Beach so we did not grab groceries. Their seafood looked absolutely beautiful and fresh and there was some steaks that Scot was eyeing but unfortunately I wasn’t willing to sacrifice any of the meals I had planned. We grabbed a couple of bottles of wine, a little bottle of vodka, and some bloody Mary mix along with some olives and lemons, and headed up the road.
The next town on our list was my favorite spot, Rosemary Beach. The Pescado Seafood Grill and Rooftop Bar was so good and if ever there is a seafood platter on a menu, we’re going for it. They had a beautiful assortment of Maine lobster, clams, mussels, crab claws, shrimp, crab salad, and ceviche. That platter was $135 but it’s for two people and it was honestly so much food. Because it was seafood served perfectly chilled, we decided to go for a bottle of champagne. We love this place so much that we even came back for appetizers the next night before dinner. We had a couple of wonderfully refreshing cocktails and shared a cheese board while sitting at the bar. Couple of notes – they do take reservations and their Sunday brunch looks absolutely fantastic.
Havana Beach Bar and Grill at the Pearl offers brunch and dinner daily. One morning, we stopped in for breakfast and I enjoyed an avocado toast and Scot had a ham and cheese omelet. They offer Anson Mills Creamy Grits and if you haven’t discovered Anson mills, please do so. They are a wonderful company that sells a lot of rice, grits, and flours. We did not make it to the Havana for dinner but they do have a rooftop dining area with shared plates inspired by the Beach bar and grill. Their dinner menu is small including a couple of styles of beef, fish, and pasta. Call to make a reservation.
Cowgirl Kitchen in Rosemary Beach is a great place to stop for lunch, although they do have another location up the road in Blue Mountain Beach that has breakfast and lunch availability. Cowgirl Kitchen is a casual place with a southwestern flair and offers a wide variety of pizza and salads. We shared the smoked tuna dip that was outstanding. I had the chopped salad that had a nice twist with shredded chicken and a Basil house vinaigrette. Scot was really pleased with the beachy spring roll, which was blackened shrimp with a tarragon dressing and potato chips. It’s a great stop for lunch and it’s located right on the main square.
Another great place to try some Italian food in Rosemary Beach is Lola Coastal Italian. They do not accept reservations and they are only open for dinner, Monday – Saturday. We split a standard caesar salad that was nothing super special. Scot had the chicken parma and I enjoyed the chicken piccata. It’s a nice restaurant that was beautiful inside and a fine escape from all the seafood that you find up and down 30A. I recommend this place for families as they offer meals for kids like chicken strips, pasta shells, and fish sticks.
The next two restaurants we visited were in Alys Beach. We enjoyed lunch at Citizens and we’re excited to see East Coast and West Coast oysters on the half shell on the menu. We had some from both coasts and were served with a lovely cucumber mignonette. Scot enjoyed the citizen double stack burger – anything with secret sauce grabs his attention. I had the fried southern fried fish with hush puppies and chow chow cole slaw. We really enjoyed Citizens, it had a beautiful interior and they have a great wine list available by the glass.
I was so looking forward to our lunch at George’s At Alys Beach, I had read so many things about this restaurant so my expectations were pretty high. I was praying I was not disappointed and guess what? I was far from letdown. I had the sesame crab and avocado Salad with greens and a sesame vinaigrette that was out of this world. I’ve tried to duplicate this salad so many times and so far I have not succeeded. It is one of the best salads that I’ve ever had and I would have loved to have gone back while we were there but we ran out of time. Scot enjoyed the famous market fish sandwich with French fries and we shared a bottle of wine. We really enjoyed sitting on the patio at this highly raved (and well deserved) restaurant.
As we continued west on 30A, we hit our last three restaurants. Shunk Gulley was someplace that we stopped at in the middle of the afternoon when we first arrived on 30A. We sat outside with a beach front view and the people watching was incredible. I had the tuna poke and duck fat gulley fries. If you’ve never had fries fried in duck fat, you are missing out and you need to find them ASAP! There is something about duck fat fries that just make you hunger for more and more. They were so delish. We were excited to see one of our favorite wineries on their wine list so we shared a bottle. I highly recommend Shunk Gulley for families as it’s not super expensive and they have a kid’s menu complete with popcorn shrimp, corn dogs, chicken fingers, and fried fish. They also have key lime pie and what kid doesn’t like key lime pie?? Unfortunately, they do not take reservations.
The Cafe Thirty-A is in Seagrove Beach and they require reservations. It is a fancy restaurant with a hefty price, but I say it’s worth it. We shared the beef carpaccio with cheddar horseradish cream, parmesan, capers, and a little truffle oil and an arugula salad with shaved pecorino, toasted pine nuts in a lemon garlic vinaigrette. For main courses, I had the sesame crusted yellowfin tuna, which had an Asian stir fry flavor infused with wasabi oil and sweet soy. Scot had the grilled 12 ounce New York strip sirloin with duck fat roasted red potatoes, collard greens, and a mushroom demi-glace. I’m telling you… duck fat is the key to life. It. Their wine list is very extensive and goes from very reasonably priced bottles around $45 to $180 bottles. They also have a pretty substantial reserve wine list if you’re celebrating something or just feel like splurging. The Cafe Thirty-A also offers over 30 varieties of a half bottles, which I always love to see. For instance, if you want to have a cocktail over appetizers you may want also want a glass of wine with dinner, hence the wise half bottle. They also have five or six half bottles of champagne which, of course, is genius.
We really enjoyed a dinner at the Surfing Deer located in Seagrove, which seemed to be the place to celebrate major life events. There were some fun parties around us and we got totally wrapped up in their excitement. There was a birthday, an anniversary, a proposal, and about 20 girls celebrating a bride-to-be. They do accept reservations and they also have a kids menu. Everything on the menu looked fantastic but we decided on the crispy fried calamari with asiago cheese, Peruvian peppers, and lemon pepper aioli. Calamari is hard to come by in Texas, so we were excited to see that on the menu. I chose the seared sea scallops over a champagne spinach risotto with heirloom caprese and bocconcini, crispy parma ham. Scot tried the seafood acadiana which was grouper, lobster, crawfish, shrimp and andouille sausage in a butter lobster stock with Cajun brown rice and a baguette. We both left very full, happy, and satisfied.
Altogether, we really enjoyed our trip to 30A. We stayed in Rosemary Beach at an Airbnb that was a carriage house with a pool located right next to us, two blocks away from the beach. Rosemary Beach is a very walkable town and the beach felt safe and secure. It is very clean and is not a public beach so it’s not over crowded, however, you do need to make reservations if you want to sit in a particular area. To eliminate having to lug chairs back and forth to your Airbnb, visit RBPOAbeachservice.com to reserve chairs that will be set up on the beach with your name on them.
There are a lot of other lovely restaurants, coffee shops, and bars up and down 30A and I look forward to going back and exploring more! In the meantime make sure you check out duck fat fries or potatoes of any kind. They will blow your mind.