Emerald-hued water and sugar white sand — it’s the stuff postcards and 30A — are made of. After the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the Florida panhandle wreaked havoc over the surrounding areas last fall, the 28.5-mile stretch of shore along Florida Scenic Highway 30A emerged relatively unscathed, spared from most major damage unlike its unlucky neighbors to the east. Thankfully, the idyllic towns of 30A are ready to welcome visitors back to its picturesque beaches.
A favorite destination for a beach getaway for Atlantans due to its close proximity (less than six hours by car), 30A is rich with family-friendly activities and beautiful beaches. But a burgeoning dining scene has given the area added appeal for those looking for culinary delights along with their daily doses of sun, sand and surf. Here’s a look at restaurants to put on your radar for your next beach vacation.
Home to stunning whitewashed buildings and villas inspired by Bermudan architecture, petite Alys Beach has several notable eateries worth checking out along 30A. In the morning, grab your caffeine fix at Fonville Press, which offers an all-day café menu, including breakfast, pressed sandwiches, salads, snacks and entrées, along with coffee, wine and beer. Peruse the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with cookbooks while you wait for your latte, then sip it outside on the covered outdoor patio that looks over Fonville Park — complete with a play area for kids, sea serpent sculptures, a climbing wall and a stage for live entertainment.
Another great breakfast option, especially with kids in tow, is Charlie’s Donut Truck. Most mornings you can spot the blue and white truck parked on the north side of Scenic Highway 30A near the Alys Beach Amphitheatre selling fresh-made donuts (hand-rolled, dipped and filled) and pastries. Flavors include red velvet cake, blueberry, maple bacon and more, plus there’s a selection of hot coffee and cold drinks. Enjoy your meal on one of the picnic tables nearby or on the amphitheater lawn while the kids splash in the fountain. But get there early, because they sell out fast.
Serving lunch and dinner, George’s at Alys Beach is equally suited for a romantic date night and a casual but elevated family meal. Sit inside the charming beach cottage for a intimate, cozy experience, or dine al fresco on the patio or screened porch for a livelier atmosphere. There’s also a viewing deck upstairs with vistas of the ocean where you can chill out with a glass of wine while you wait to be seated. George’s menu focuses on coastal fare infused with global favors, and uses locally sourced, organic produce and fresh seafood. Start your meal with the decadent lobster quesadilla, and follow it with the seared sea scallops with goat cheese risotto or the daily catch for a satisfying seafood feast. The lunch menu keeps things casual and is divided into two categories, Behave and Misbehave, featuring organic, spa-inspired dishes versus traditional beach fare such as fried seafood baskets and po-boys.
Seaside is teaming with stellar dining options. Right along 30A in the center of town, Airstream Row is a cluster of adorable shiny silver food trucks dishing out gourmet eats that run the gamut from barbecue and hot dogs to shaved ice, smoothies and everything in between. Check out The Meltdown on 30A, which specializes in both traditional and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, served along with soups, chips and drinks. Try the brie and bacon on cranberry walnut bread, a grilled pimento cheese or the mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwich — or keep it old school with the classic American grilled cheese, a favorite among little ones and adults alike.
Another Airstream favorite to consider is Crêpes du Soleil, which specializes in sweet and savory crepes. The simple but delicious Nutella crepe makes for a rich afternoon indulgence. And for a refreshing treat on an extra-hot day, don’t miss Frost Bites on Airstream Row, serving Hawaiian shaved ice, homemade frozen custard, fresh-squeezed lemonade and other cold drinks. The shaved ice (more like snow than ice in terms of consistency) is offered in a dizzying array of flavors (and combination flavors) and comes in a giant heaping portion. But don’t let the size fool you. These treats are easily devoured and you’ll want your own instead of sharing and fighting over that last bite of cotton candy-flavored snow.
While visiting Seaside, a meal at trusty standby Bud & Alley’sis usually a solid choice. Feeding beach-goers for 20-plus years, Bud & Alley’s offers sunset views overlooking the dunes on the Gulf of Mexico. This laid-back restaurant on the beach — which also boasts an open-air bar upstairs — serves a variety of coastal classics and Southern-style dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The service is friendly, the food is always on point and the vibe is fine dining but low-key, making it an ideal choice if you’re looking for a “nicer” meal out with the whole family. If you’re craving a more casual experience, Bud & Alley’s Taco Bar right next door offers tacos, chips and guacamole, and other Tex-Mex snacks — along with margaritas and brews — with an order-at-the-counter set up and relaxed seating outside at colorful picnic tables.
Rosemary Beach / Seagrove
Cowgirl Kitchen Restaurant & Bar in Rosemary Beach offers a casual spot to get coffee and enjoy a quick breakfast (try the breakfast tacos or waffles) while people-watching from the cute sidewalk seating that overlooks Rosemary Beach’s cobbled streets. The eatery also serves lunch and dinner (salads, sandwiches, soups, entrees, side dishes and more). In Seagrove, the sister location, Cowgirl Kitchen Market, offers a similar menu (breakfast and lunch only), but also boasts a small market where you can pick up a host of specialty food items.
Blue Mountain Beach
After a hot day at the beach, a visit to Blue Mountain Beach Creamery is a must. Housed in a cute, colorful beach cottage just a block from the shore, this family-owned ice cream shop often has a line around the corner, especially after dinner. Ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet treats are served from a walk-up window in a variety of delectable flavors (oatmeal cookie, mint chocolate chip, peanut butter cookie dough are favorites). Tip: It’s cash only, so come prepared.
Santa Rosa Beach
Seafood lovers visiting 30A will want to add cult favorite Stinky’s Fish Campto their dining list. This popular spot often has a wait, which works out just fine, as you’ll have time to browse the souvenirs and pick out a T-shirt touting the cheeky name. A daily selection of fresh local seafood is the name of the game, along with oysters, a raw bar, baskets of fried seafood classics, gumbo, crawfish hushpuppies and plenty more. The relaxed restaurant serves lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on Sundays, and a special Taco Tuesday menu. The restaurant’s motto, “With a name like Stinky’s, it better be good,” consistently delivers.
With numerous dining options and a variety of family-friendly entertainment options (from live music, movie nights and sports games on the 25-foot Jumbotron), The Hub of 30A outdoor food hall makes for an easy and fun night out with the entire gang. Order a crispy pizza from the wood-fired grill at Crust; nosh on burgers, fries and salads at Mile Marker Fifteen; dig into tender barbecue from Local Smoke; or fill up on Gulf-caught shrimp from Buddy’s Seafood Market. The options are bountiful and the uber-kid-friendly set-up will have you coming back more than once.
Where to dine on 30A
Blue Mountain Beach Creamery. Family-owned ice cream shop, ccash only. Noon-10 p.m. daily. $4.50 and up. 2129 S. County Hwy. 83, Santa Rosa Beach. 850-278-6849, www.bluemountainbeachcreamery.com.
Bud & Alley’s Restaurant. Gulf front restaurant serving coastal classics and Southern-style cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. daily, 5:30-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday-Sundays. Lunch entrees $13-$19, dinner entrees $29-$39. 2236 E. County Road, Seaside. 850-231-5900, www.budandalleys.com.
Charlie’s Donut Truck. Donuts, pastries, coffee and drinks. 6:30 a.m.-noon (or until they run out) daily. $1.20-$1.75. Somerset Street, Alys Beach. 850-547-2960, www.alysbeach.com/dining/charlies-donuts, www.facebook.com/Charlies-Donuts-488173698238133/.
Cowgirl Kitchen Market.Breakfast and lunch, plus a specialty food market. 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. 3005 Scenic 30A, Seagrove. 850-231-1120, www.cowgirlkitchen.com.
Cowgirl Kitchen Restaurant & Bar. Casual café serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. 8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. 54 Main St., Rosemary Beach. 850-213-0058, www.cowgirlkitchen.com.
Fonville Press. Coffeehouse and all-day café menu serving coffee, wine and beer. 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. Entrees $10-$18. 147 W. La Garza Lane, Alys Beach. 850-213-5906, www.facebook.com/FonvillePress.
Frost Bites. Hawaiian shaved ice, frozen custard and cold drinks. 10 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily (call for spring break or summer hours). $5-$7. 2215 E. County Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach. 252-822-4262, www.frostbitesseaside.com.
George’s at Alys Beach. Coastal fare with global flavors for lunch and dinner. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Lunch entrees $12-$24, dinner entrees $10-$45. 30 Castle Harbour Drive, Alys Beach. 850-641-0017, www.georgesatalysbeach.com.
The Hub of 30A. Conglomerate of dining options centered around a central green. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, but individual hours vary. Prices vary. 24 Hub Lane, Watersound Beach. 850-213-0782, www.hub30a.com.
The Meltdown on 30A. Traditional and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches served from an Airstream food truck. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monda-Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $5-$9. 2235 E. County Hwy. 30A, Santa Rosa Beach. 850-231-0952, www.meltdownon30a.com.
Stinky’s Fish Camp. Seafood restaurant serving lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday; 11 a.m.09 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Dinner entrees $15.95-$36.95. 5960 W. County Road, Santa Rosa Beach. 850-267-3053, www.stinkysfishcamp.com.