30a’s Restaurant Pioneer

Story by Phil Heppding
Photos courtesy of Gerald Burwell

On a brisk February afternoon, we had the privilege to spend a few minutes with Dave Rauschkolb, founder of Bud & Alley’s Restaurant in Seaside, Florida.

Much has changed in the 30 years since Rauschkolb and his business partner, Scott Witcoski stopped in Seaside on their way to Panama City Beach for a day of surfing. Real estate development, an ever-increasing number of vacationing visitors and a much needed growth spurt in the culinary offerings on 30a are things Rauschkolb has witnessed first-hand. Not one to just sit back and watch things happen, Rauschkolb has played a key role in fostering and nurturing many of those changes from the start.

Bud and Alley's Founder Dave Rauschkolb
Bud and Alley’s Founder Dave Rauschkolb

“When we first started, the California food movement was just kicking off and hadn’t quite made it to our area yet. There were just a few restaurants on 30a at the time and in a way, we ended up being one of the pioneers of 30a.”

In those days fine dining was French cuisine and most of what was along the Emerald Coast was fried seafood and one French restaurant. “We had this great rustic, simple food, locally sourced as much as possible. We knew we were going to be doing something special on 30a.”

At the time Bud and Alley’s opened in January of 1986 there were only four other places to eat on 30a. Rauschkolb and his team traveled every year those first few years to remain on the cutting edge and experience first-hand the latest developments in the culinary world.

Over the years, many of 30a’s best and brightest chefs have worked and trained with Rauschkolb and his team. “Good food begets good food” said Rauschkolb. “It truly is a community here on 30a that helps one another out when its needed.”

Bud and Alley's Taco Bar
Bud and Alley’s Taco Bar

So how does Rauschkolb and his team continue to raise the bar? “We have always tried to be on the forefront of everything. The only way to do that is to travel, open your world up. We did lots of travel research for Taco Bar, the first authentic Mexican taqueria on 30a. We did the same thing for the Pizza Bar.”

It is not just about the food at Bud and Alley’s. The restaurant group boasts an impressive lineup of talent in the kitchen and in the front of the house as well. As Dave pointed out, “its important that we continue to refine our lineup.” With the recent addition of Chef Phil McDonald at Bud and Alley’s Pizza Bar, one can easily see that Rauschkolb and his team are serious about taking the 30a dining experience to new heights.

Bud and Alley's Pizza Bar
Bud and Alley’s Pizza Bar

Ask anyone that has worked for Rauschkolb and you will hear that he is someone that leads not just by example, but through empowerment and a willingness to let his team take the reins of the restaurants. Rauschkolb is not one to micro-manage his team and it is a philosophy that has worked extremely well over the years.

As our area begins to draw visitors from California, Chicago and the northeast, what does Bud and Alley’s have in store to continue to be the standard bearer of the culinary scene on 30a? Guests can expect to see Bud and Alley’s even better than ever as they roll out a breakfast menu in the Spring of 2015. In planning for the roll out, Rauschkolb and a number of his chefs and managers recently visited New York City to sample some of the finest breakfast faire the Big Apple has to offer.

For the cocktail lover in all of us, a craft cocktail lineup that is sure to delight is on its way to the Bud and Alley’s restaurant group. For those of us who have fallen in love with the sunsets and special dining events on the rooftop bar, you’ll be comforted to know that the space hasn’t changed much in the 30 years since they opened.

Looking back over the years, Rauschkolb takes great pride and finds it a “real honor” to have grown to become the “center of the universe on 30a.”

Want to go?

Bud and Alley’s Restaurant Waterfront Restaurant is open seven days a week with lunch served from 11AM -3PM. Dinner starts at 5:30PM and goes until 10PM. For more information and to make reservations, please call 850-231-5900 or visit http://www.budandalleys.com/bud-alleys-seaside.php

Bud and Alley’s Taco Bar is currently open seven days a week from 11AM until 9PM. For more information please call 850-231-4781 or visit http://www.budandalleys.com/taco_bar.php

Bud and Alley’s Pizza Bar is open seven days a week from 11AM until 10PM. For more information call 850-231-3113 or visit http://www.budandalleys.com/pizza_bar.php

Photos courtesy of Gerald Burwell