Seagrove Village MarketCafé: Serving up a side of Seagrove history
By Laura Holloway
Oct. 7, 2021
SEAGROVE BEACH – Imagine that all of your favorite beach foods could be found in one place, and it was a place that felt like a vacationer’s escape and coming home all at the same time. A place that was a short stroll from the Gulf, serving up shrimp, burgers, crab cakes, and a fried grouper sandwich so good you may have to head back out front to make sure you didn’t cross through the pearly gates before placing your order.
“The best compliment we’ve ever been given is that we preserved a large part of Seagrove history and that it feels like ‘family.’” – Ann Hartley, co-owner
The success of the Seagrove Village MarketCafé is due largely in part to the simple perfection of the food, but maybe even more is that the restaurant itself feels so familiar and welcoming that both visitors and locals claim it as an old friend and have for years.
Co-owner Ann Hartley of the Hartley Restaurant Group (with husband George) takes great pride in the MarketCafé and its place in the history of Seagrove and the hearts of its residents.
“The best compliment we’ve ever been given is that we preserved a large part of Seagrove history and that it feels like ‘family’ in that sweet little spot … serving yummy food that multiple generations have loved for years,” she said.
In fact, it’s often the first stop for out-of-towners when arriving in town, and the Hartleys have become an unofficial welcome wagon.
“George has often been called the ‘mayor’ of Seagrove!” Ann laughed.
In true 30A local fashion, the restaurant operates on beach time and does not take reservations, so show up early and expect a small crowd. What is it about the food that warrants a packed house?
“George’s short answer that he learned from Ernie and Betsy (prior owners) is to buy it fresh, cook it to order and serve it with a smile!” Ann explained.
Nibbles and Favorites
A mouthwatering ‘Nibbles’ menu offers a nice start, including Smoked Tuna Dip, Fried Okra, Jalapeño Pimento Dip, Basket of Hushpuppies, or the Nibbles Trio (a sampling of three choices). The MarketCafé’s famous Gumbo is well worth ordering, made with shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage and fried okra. Traditional beach fare baskets are a popular choice, featuring fried oysters, shrimp, fish, crab cakes or a combination of these, served with two sides and hushpuppies, and any selection can be fried, blackened, or grilled.
The Favorites menu is aptly named, with delightful choices like BBQ Shrimp and Grits (with Cajun butter sauce over cheese grits, served with one side and Texas Toast), Chicken and Waffles (three fried, grilled or blackened tenders, a Belgian waffle and maple syrup), and Grouper Tacos (two tacos fried, grilled or blackened served with poblano lime tartar sauce, Pico de Gallo, and one side).
The MarketCafé’s burgers, sandwiches, and po’boys are events in themselves, with selections that include the BBQ Bacon Burger, Andouille and Shrimp Po Boy, Philly Cheese Steak, Crab Cake Sandwich, Chicken Sandwich, a Fried Green Tomato BLT, Buffalo Chicken Wrap, and the Surfing Deer Vegan Burger.
“My favorite thing on the menu is the fried grouper sandwich,” Ann admitted. “I’ve loved it since the first day we ever went in. But, the fried shrimp po boy and all its yummy-ness is the reason we bought the MarketCafé in 1999! And back then the kitchen was electric burners and FryDaddies. It’s a hoot remembering it back then: a grocery with the restaurant in back!“
The Seagrove Village MarketCafé is located at 2976 South Highway 395 in Seagrove Beach, and is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Although reservations are not accepted, you can find out more by calling 850-231-5736 or visiting www.seagrovevillagemarket.com.