Eat Like a Local on 30A
August 3, 2021
Visitors have been flocking to Northwest Florida for decades, returning year after year to the quaint seaside towns along the Gulf Coast. A popular destination in its own right, Scenic Highway 30A is no different, and locals have watched it develop and flourish with each passing season. What began with a small beach retreat has evolved into 16 thriving communities sprinkled along the Gulf of Mexico in what the locals lovingly refer to simply as ‘30A’. With so many communities, you may be wondering what restaurants to frequent while visiting. We get it, when visiting, you want to eat like a local on 30A, and we’re here to help.
As the landscape evolved, so too did the food scene, attracting skilled chefs entranced by the emerald waters, the bounties of the sea ultimately serving as inspiration for their culinary delights. Today, the restaurants, cafes, and bistros along 30A incorporate locally sourced, farm-to-table ingredients and serve up award-winning southern cuisine with a coastal flair.
We recognize your stay in the area may be brief, and with so many eateries, it might be challenging to decide where to go. We’re offering up our list on how to eat like a local on 30A.
Eat Where the Locals Do on 30A
Nestled between Seaside and Seacrest, Seagrove’s prime location and laid-back environment make it a favorite for locals. Although the attitude is relaxed, the food is top-notch, with a few favorite spots worthy of mention.
Ideally situated in the master-planned community of WaterColor, The Wine Bar is your go-to spot for a relaxing yet tasty lunch or dinner. Swing by for a carafe of wine at happy hour (specials daily until 6 pm) complemented by a gourmet cheese plate or fire-roasted pizza. We particularly enjoy the farmhouse gouda and a cabernet or the double cream brie paired with a lovely pinot noir. Order a baked baguette to seal the deal and enjoy an afternoon on the patio.
The Perfect Pig offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a Sunday brunch that’s simply a must. Start your day with a mimosa and a pork belly biscuit smothered in caramelized onions and bourbon molasses mustard. Choose from an array of sandwiches and salads for lunch, with beautifully prepared seafood, pork, beef, and chicken dishes rounding out the dinner menu. Be sure to check out their WaterColor and Gulf Place locations too!
Santa Rosa Beach
Stretching from Sandestin to Inlet Beach, Santa Rosa Beach is the largest community in South Walton and has plenty of places for you to eat like a local on 30A. Defined by rustic beach houses alongside contemporary homes, the architectural mix is just as diverse as the food served in the community’s local haunts.
- The Bay, aptly named for the body of water it overlooks, serves lunch, brunch, and dinner and is perfect if you have kids in tow. You’ll love the casual atmosphere and 12-draft beer system; they’ll love the live music and beachfront property with room to roam. With a menu featuring small plates, sushi, pasta, and seafood, you’re bound to find something for even the most discerning palate.
- A popular lunch spot, the Chanticleer Eatery also boasts a great dinner menu. The cheerful setting, filled with vibrant artwork, a friendly staff, and a dog-friendly outdoor patio, is the perfect complement to the homemade bread, smoked meats, and fresh sauces made daily. You’ll find an array of southern and Caribbean-influenced dishes, along with steak, pork, burgers, and a great kids menu too. Try the pork nachos, shrimp and grits, and jambalaya to get your taste buds moving.
- Overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay, North Beach Social is an excellent choice for a casual lunch or dinner. With live music, plenty of outdoor seating, and the sand under your toes on the outdoor deck, the whole family will enjoy the environment. Try the fish tacos, a poke’ bowl, or the Grits a Ya Ya, three exceptional dishes, each uniquely flavorful. Throw in all-day drink specials, bonfires, and bocce games – what’s not to love?
- Decorated with garage sale finds, eclectic artwork, and cool chandeliers, Louis Louis is a one-of-a-kind experience you won’t want to miss. The concept? A family-run business serving simple, delicious food in a funky, festive environment. Although a limited menu, every dish is a culinary delight. Start with gumbo or crab cakes, then forge onward to one of the daily entrees typically originating with chicken, fish, or pork married in flavorful sauces and simmered to perfection. Bon Appetit!
- Although you might not think of Mexican food for breakfast, we encourage you to reconsider. The locals sure have, with Don Pedros ranking as a top pick for their first meal of the day. We’re not just talking huevos, rancheros, and chilaquiles and eggs, but a host of savory dishes, including french toast, omelets, and chicken fried steak. Come dinnertime, burgers and sandwiches are served alongside tasty seafood and steak dishes with a Mexican flair, perfectly complemented with a frozen margarita.
One of the oldest communities along 30A, Grayton Beach, continues to enchant visitors and locals alike, just as it did nearly 100 years ago when it first became a vacation destination. The casual, laid-back vibe courses through the people and restaurants alike in this quiet community.
For authentic Italian packed with bold, rich flavor – we’re talking hearty dishes that simmer for hours – look no further than Trattoria Borago. Start with a signature cocktail made from fresh juice squeezed daily, then dive into the wild mushroom ravioli or the three meat bolognese. We particularly enjoy the creamy seafood fricassee, a delicate dish with shrimp, scallops, lump crab, and leeks over cheese polenta, a delicious melding of flavors worthy of acclaim.
With live music every night, indoor and outdoor seating, three bars, two stages, and a fire pit, it’s no wonder AJ’s is synonymous with a good time. Originally known for cold beer and fresh oysters, the menu now includes all things seafood, as in platters, sandwiches, and po’boys. Enjoy shrimp, fish, and oysters steamed, fried, grilled, or blackened, but be sure to start with the gumbo, a chilled dozen oysters on the half shell, and an ice-cold brew. Should you miss their Grayton location, look for them in Destin, Okaloosa Island, and Fort Walton Beach.
Blue Mountain Beach
Garnering its moniker from the prevalent blue lupine flowers throughout the area, Blue Mountain Beach is low-key, peaceful, and less crowded than other towns along this stretch. Situated between Gulf Place and Grayton Beach, residents here know a thing or two about good eats.
With beignets, chicken and waffles, and brisket hash as popular brunch dishes, it really couldn’t get any more southern. Blue Mabel’s menu is as varied as it gets, and luckily for us, at its core are smoked meats, homemade sauces, and condiments not easily sourced in these parts. Swing by for lunch, dinner, or the daily happy hour and sample southern comfort food at its finest. Try the 16-hour smoked brisket sandwich or the wood-grilled fish of the day. Top it off with a signature Blue Mountain gin and tonic made with Empress indigo gin, blueberry-rosemary syrup, and elderflower tonic, and call it a wrap!
One of the last remaining gems in these parts, Redd’s Fueling Station is a kitschy joint with a funky vibe. A converted fueling station with live bands, dueling piano shows, and a singing bartender, it’s easy to see why people keep coming back. Then there’s the food. We’re talking smoked gouda and bacon mac and cheese, BBQ simmered for 14 hours in beef broth and beer, and fried green tomato BLTs as just a tiny sampling of the tasty fare. You can thank us later.
Johnny McTighe’s is the only Irish pub on 30A and undoubtedly worthy of a visit. An excellent late-night spot with a game room, music, hearty meals, and a fully stocked bar, it’s good food and a good time for the whole family. You won’t go wrong with classic pub fares like corned beef and cabbage or the fish and chips, but don’t overlook the appetizers and other traditional entrees. Start with some wings and some beer-battered onion rings, and roll into a Philly cheesesteak or an Irish Reuben for a delicious and fulfilling meal second to none.
With so many great restaurants on 30A, the only problem will be to decide where to go first!