Consistently chic, consistently delicious
By Laura Holloway
SEAGROVE BEACH – Sumptuous crab cakes and fine wines tend to come paired with a stuffy, upper-crust atmosphere, but Café Thirty-A’s inviting, casual-yet-with-a-special-occasion feel brings tourists vying for a table and locals consistently coming back time and time again.
In fact, it’s the word “consistent” that continues to find its place in reviews and press about the 26-year-old restaurant, more definitively “consistently delicious.” It’s what owner Harriet Crommelin attributes Café Thirty-A’s success.
“It’s consistently delicious. In fact, we use that on our t-shirts and advertising because it’s something we’ve heard time and time again about our food,” Crommelin said. And consistency is important, with many adding “Dinner at Café Thirty-A” to their vacation to-do list before they ever leave home.
30A is a unique place, one that defines a new kind of culinary lifestyle. As Crommelin said, “All of the restaurants are locally owned and operated. There are no chains, so of course, everything is unique. The owners pay more attention, and we have a rapport with the community.”
And the flavor Café Thirty-A adds to the 30A food scene is one long-simmered, hearty, memorable, and loved by so many.
The restaurant opened in 1995, at a time when 30A was little more than a few houses dotting the dune grass covered sand. While the original menu was developed by Will McGehee (from Crommelin’s restaurant back in Montgomery, Ala.), Executive Chef Tim Williams adds his own flair and flavor to the upscale and timelessly coastal-Southern menu.
The restaurant’s feel is upscale, classic, and breezy, reminiscent of a favorite coastal home, described by Crommelin as “beach chic.”
Open only for dinner (starting at 4:30 p.m. each day), restaurant guests are tempted with small plates and starters such as Prince Edward Island Saffron Mussels (with sherry saffron broth, tomatoes, chiffonade of basil, and grilled ciabatta), Tuna Poke (with sushi rice, seaweed salad, avocado and tomatillo puree, Thai vinaigrette, and rice crackers), and Grilled Georgia Quail (served alongside creamy grits with shiitake bacon butter), which Crommelin recommends as a definite crowd favorite.
Even the salads are distinct, such as the Fried Oyster Spinach Salad (made with Cherrywood smoked bacon, cherry tomatoes, pickled red onion, and bacon vinaigrette) and the Local Hydro Salad (with raspberries, goat cheese, candied almonds, diced apples, and apple vinaigrette).
The main course offerings are the things of foodie daydreams, including a Main Lobster in Paradise (served with truffled “three cheese” mac, fried leeks, sweet peas, and roasted red peppers), Tandoori Salmon (with Tandoori rub, jasmine rice, snow peas, cucumber sunomono, and honey raita), and an 8oz grilled filet mignon, served with whipped mashed potatoes, balsamic grilled jumbo asparagus, and Worcestershire reduction. If your entree doesn’t come with Café Thirty-A’s Famous Creamy Grits, be sure to order a side.
Sweet tooth diners, beware: the dessert menu is just as decadent as the main, with a Warm Rum Raisin Apple Bread Pudding (with cinnamon ice cream and Kentucky bourbon sauce), a Hummingbird Cake (with crème anglaise and caramel sauce), and a Chocolate Mousse Pie (with a chocolate cookie crust, balsamic reduction, raspberry coulis, and candied almonds).
A full wine menu is available (by bottle or glass), and a full bar with a special cocktail menu can round out a fun evening (try the Seagrove Beach Breeze, made with New Amsterdam Red Berry, Peach Schnapps, cranberry juice, and orange juice). There’s even a kids menu with popular items like chicken fingers, grilled fish, and a very special cheeseburger.
The restaurant’s BOHO special is held nightly, which rewards diners with a half price entrée with purchase of one from 4:30 to 5 p.m. And $6 ‘Tini Night is also a crowd pleaser, offering a special martini menu every Tuesday and Thursday night in the bar, with martinis for only $6. Special events and gatherings can be arranged in the private dining lounge upstairs.
Crommelin’s favorite part of the day? “Talking to the people. We have regulars we see all of the time, and we have new guests that come in from around the world. Everyone is a guest in our ‘home.’” And of course, the inviting space she has created through the years feels like home to many, with reservations recommended each night to assure table availability.
Café Thirty-A is located at 3899 E. Scenic Hwy. 30A in Seagrove Beach, and a full menu and more about the restaurant can be found by visiting cafethirtya.com. Make sure there’s a seat at the table for your next night out by calling 850-231-2166.