5235 E County Highway 30a,
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
5235 E County Highway 30a,
5235 E County Highway 30a,
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Santa Rosa Beach,FL 32459
63 Main Street
Rosemary Beach, FL 32461
By Lauren Sage Reinlie
ROSEMARY BEACH – Todd Rogers, executive chef of Havana Beach Bar & Grill, had worked in five-star resorts and restaurants all across the country when he packed up his family and moved to South Walton over six years ago.
It wasn’t hard for him to leave behind the bustle of big cities.
“I always say you should work where you love to live,” the 60-year-old Rogers said recently. “The 30A area is just such a beautiful place, it’s so unique. All the beaches and quaint little towns. I have lived in big cities like Atlanta and Houston, but really I prefer this.”
The attraction of a place with a small-town feel likely comes from Rogers’ formative years, growing up on a small farm in West Virginia, farming and gardening and above all cooking alongside his grandmother. They gathered fruits and vegetables for jams and jellies. They baked biscuits and gravy, collected eggs from the chicken coop.
“It took all day, but you didn’t have phones and televisions and everything that took all your time,” Rogers recalled. “You made food, you lived to eat.”
When he was 16 a chef at a nearby country club took him under his wing. He went to college and studied business at his dad’s request, but shortly after he was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America in New York City. He was the first of his family to move away from home — to one of the biggest cities in the country, no less.
“It was a little bit of a culture shock,” Rogers recalled.
His cooking journey has taken him all across the U.S., but the passion his grandmother helped stoke at such a young age has never waned.
He brought it to Havana Beach where they cook, as he says, the “old-fashioned” way. Everything is made by hand.
Sauces begin with roasting bones and caramelizing vegetables.
“There are just so many things you can buy this day and age so people say ‘why would you spend three days making demi-glace?’ Because it’s how you should do it,” Rogers said. “It’s not just a TV show where you make four courses in 30 minutes. It takes a lot of care and pride and passion to create great food.”
It also takes consistency, a strive for perfection and a tight-knit staff who share the same the values.
Rogers and his staff practice and perfect all their recipes from the shrimp and grits or Delmonico filet mignon to their expertly crafted avocado BLT.
Rogers enjoys teaching new cooks, sharing classical cooking techniques and tips he’s learned along the way.
“A lot of the older chefs kind of hold their recipes and techniques close to their chests,” Rogers said. “I believe in the other way: teaching everyone around you what you know and helping the young people who want to move up and learn something new.”
The farm-to-table food Rogers grew up with is also present at Havana Beach.
Almost everything Rogers serves comes from along the Gulf Coast: oysters, shrimp, grouper, snapper and flounder from Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico; organic chickens from Bonifay, Florida; peppery, farm-fresh arugula, micro-radishes, micro-sorrel and other micro greens from a hydroponic farm about an hour north of the restaurant.
A truck from New Orleans stops at small family-run farms in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida along the way.
“It’s kind of like a market on a truck coming right to your back door,” he said.
Havana Beach Bar & Grill features a main dining area, a veranda with outdoor seating, a roof deck patio with views of the Gulf and a large, hand-carved mahogany bar with one of the largest bottle collections in South Walton.
Rogers says he doesn’t plan to stop working anytime soon.
“I always like to say I’m self-employed. I just find someone to pay me to do what I love.”
Havana Beach Bar & Grill is located at The Pearl Hotel, 63 Main Street in Rosemary Beach. The restaurant is open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for breakfast and lunch, and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. The bar is open from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Call 850-588-2882 for more information.
By Lauren Sage ReinlieMarch 21, 2021ROSEMARY BEACH – Todd Rogers, executive chef of Havana Beach Bar & Grill, had worked in five-star resorts and restaurants all across the country when he packed up his family and moved to South Walton over six years ago.It wasn’t hard for him to leave behind the bustle of big […]
ROSEMARY BEACH – Havana Beach Bar & Grill is hosting a special Valentine’s Day dinner Sunday, Feb. 14 from 6 to 10 p.m. Toast to your special someone with a three-course, prix-fixe menu and live piano entertainment. $125 per person; sales tax and gratuity not included. Reservations are required at 850-588-2882.
Story by Sarah Murphy Robertson Acme Ice House in Seacrest has done it again. Wednesday November 19th’s installment of “Food Fights” showcasing local 30A chefs cooking head to head (with three mandatory secret ingredients and only an hour’s time!), was overflowing with creativity, talent, and entertainment. Eager guests poured into the warm, inviting doors of […]
At WaterColor Inn
34 Goldenrod Circle
Santa Rosa Beach
By Lauren Sage Reinlie
WATERCOLOR – Diners at FOOW in WaterColor really can’t get much closer to the beach.
“It’s almost right at your fingertips,” said Dustin Parkman, the director of restaurants for WaterColor Inn.
With almost 270 degrees of floor-to-ceiling windows and a third of its seating on an outside patio, FOOW (pronounced ‘foo’) takes full advantage of its location. The view from this second-floor restaurant is of an almost-untouched stretch of beach with natural dunes rolling alongside the blue-green of the Gulf of Mexico.
The longstanding restaurant Fish Out of Water was redesigned and reopened in 2018 as FOOW. Stepping away from the strictly fine dining of the former restaurant, FOOW offers “coastal casual at its finest,” as Parkman described it.
The redesign was on par with changing demographics of WaterColor and the 30A area in general, Parkman said. Diners in years past were primarily older adults, but now they are increasingly families and those looking for a more casual atmosphere.
“We still have a high level of service and refinement but FOOW has a little more laid-back attitude; it’s a little more unbuttoned,” he said.
The concept has worked out amazingly well. Despite all the challenges of 2020, Parkman said it was their best year on record.
“We can handle volume and crowds now,” he said. “It’s more lively. I love the energy that restaurants can have, this sort of hum and this buzz. That’s what we’re working to create here.”
At the new FOOW, everything is designed to be a little more approachable, including the menu, Parkman said.
Price points are more affordable for food and drinks and the menu offers plenty of options to mix and match to please everyone at the table from adults to kids.
But, Parkman noted, while it may be a more casual menu, the staff still strives for that fine dining perfection.
Ninety percent of the menu’s offerings are made in-house.
“We try to stay away from anything that’s not freshly made,” Parkman said.
Local grouper filets are still the most popular item on the menu. But a new item, the FOOW burger, made from privately sourced Wagyu beef, has become their second-most popular.
It’s served on a brioche bun with garlic aioli and comes stacked high with fresh lettuce and just-cut tomatoes, looking like it’s about to fall over, Parkman said.
“As simple as it may be, a cheeseburger or hamburger can be messed up or it can be one of the best things you’ve ever had,” Parkman said. “There’s something to be said for a burger that is perfectly done and perfectly executed. As elementary as it may seem, it’s a lot more difficult than it sounds and it takes a lot of effort to have it just perfect every time.”
With about 265 seats available, FOOW is the largest restaurant along Scenic Highway 30A, Parkman said.
It features an open kitchen and a bar that is half inside and half outside. The patio has televisions and plenty of seating. FOOW also has a wine room that can be reserved for private events, groups or those who want to dine with more privacy.
FOOW is located at the WaterColor Inn, which is a four-star Forbes-rated hotel, and Parkman said the staff strives to meet those standards at the restaurant, too.
Even though flip-flops are welcome, the dining experience and service are of utmost importance. Parkman said a lot of that is in the details, from the look of the place to how it sounds, what the glassware and silverware feel like and how staff interact with diners.
“It’s those things you can touch, taste and smell, the tangibles of the experience,” Parkman said. “That’s what helps separate us from a more casual beachside restaurant.”
FOOW is located at 34 Goldenrod Circle and is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are not accepted. Free valet parking is offered at the entrance. More information can be found at foow30a.com or by calling 850-534-5050.
83 Central Square
Seaside, FL 32459
Ask anyone where to dine in South Walton and most will offer the same suggestion: The Great
Southern Café. The first in Jim Shirley’s local restaurant endeavors, Seaside’s Great Southern is
well worth the wait you may encounter upon arrival. Everyone wants a seat at the table, and
it’s the combination of sumptuous menu offerings and the restaurant’s ability to offer both a
quiet date night as well as a lively get-together that makes it able to stand the test of time, a
favorite year after year for residents and visitors alike.
Great Southern opened in 2006 and hasn’t seemed to slow for a moment since.
“Our crew at Great Southern makes sure you feel at home, and proven fresh Southern comfort
food makes you think of us when you are away,” Shirley said of his eatery’s success. Luckily, the
hankering for Great Southern fare can be satisfied at any meal, with breakfast, lunch and dinner
available every single day of the year. Located smack dab in the middle of Seaside’s picturesque
town center, the restaurant is ideal for delicious cuisine with friends, happy hour meetups with
groups, and special nights out with that certain someone.
The breakfast menu has something for everyone, including a veggie frittata (made with fresh
eggs, zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, and red pepper), grits and grillades (with slow-roasted
beef in a natural rich wine broth on a bed of Gouda cheese grits), avocado toast (topped with
two eggs your way or with West Indies marinated jumbo lump crab), or five different kinds of
Benedict, including a fried green tomato benedict and corned beef hash benedict.
Traditional breakfast favorites are also available, though they are anything but ordinary, such as
biscuits and gravy or a pancake plate (with vanilla pancakes, scrambled eggs and choice of
breakfast meat). And, of course, no Great Southern breakfast is complete without an order of
beignets and a Bloody Mary (made with horseradish, spiced beans and pickled okra, available
with or without vodka).
Jimmy Buffet’s song “I Wish Lunch Could Last Forever” may very well have been inspired by the
menu at Great Southern. Even appetizer items could quickly become a very satisfying meal,
such as a baked oyster trio (Acadian, Rockefeller and Bienville styles), Duck Calls (duck confit,
poblano, onions, peppers, tomatoes and crisp wrapper with Billy’s Spicy Mustard and pepper
jelly), and Soul Rolls (Shirley’s favorite menu item), made with chicken, collard greens, crisp wrapper, peach chutney and Creole mustard-horseradish. Don’t forget to celebrate your true Southern side with a side of frog legs.
Entrée items quickly induce hunger pangs, including ginger chicken (with horseradish-spiked
marmalade, or Jezebel sauce as it is called at GSC), balsamic salmon (with balsamic glaze, feta-
caper relish, sautéed green beans and mashed potatoes), and even a surprisingly satisfying
vegetable plate, with your choice of four Southern sides and a corn muffin.
A ‘Quick Bites’ menu rounds out the lunch offerings, with such favorites as pimento cheese
(served with warm pita wedges), and a West Indies crab martini, made with jumbo lump
crabmeat, tomato and avocado.
The dinner menu glistens with flavorful choices, including the much-loved Grits a Ya Ya
(blackened shrimp, sauté of Applewood-smoked bacon, spinach, Portobello mushrooms, and
cream served on a bed of smoked Gouda cheese grits).
“’Travel and Life’ called Grits á Ya Ya the best Southern dish in Florida,” Shirley said of his
restaurant’s most glowing review.
For something even heartier, there’s the bacon-wrapped filet mignon (served with mashed
potatoes and sautéed green beans), or mac and cheese with bacon and shrimp (with Havarti,
aged cheddar and grand cru cheeses). Salads that serve as full meals are also available,
including a balsamic grilled salmon and a Caesar salad with blackened shrimp.
A hearty wine list, draft beer selections, and fully stocked cocktail menu complete the
experience. A kids' menu – with choices such as shrimp (grilled or fried), cheeseburger, or
breaded chicken fingers – is sure to satisfy even the pickiest of palates.
The Great Southern Café is located at 83 Central Square in Seaside, and reservations are not
accepted. Breakfast is served each day from 8 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.,
and dinner from 4 p.m. to “at least 9:30 p.m.” More information can be found by calling 850-
231-7327 or by visiting www.thegreatsoutherncafe.com.
2236 E County Highway 30A
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459
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 […]
Story by Sarah Murphy Robertson The holidays are all about indulging in the delicious, decadent food of our families’ traditions. Chef Derek Langford of Bud & Alley’s graciously shared some holiday memories and an especially celebratory recipe to enjoy this season. Chef Langford grew up in North Georgia, in a town called Winder just outside […]