By Michelle Farnham
April 1, 2021
SEAGROVE BEACH – Whether you’re on vacation, or just want to act like you are, Surfing Deer is the kind of elegant chic you’d expect along the Emerald Coast, with a menu to back it up.
Nestled at the corner of 30A and County Highway 395, Surfing Deer serves New American cuisine from the kitchen of veteran chef, Gregg Smith. He prides himself on looking all across the world for inspiration, then putting his own spin on his favorite global flavors.
“With our online reservations, people are not having to stand outside for an hour-and-a-half, waiting to get in.” – Chef Gregg Smith
His team is seeing consistent orders for the Seafood Acadiana for the past two seasons, a dish that brings all the Southern seafood to the table: fresh grouper, crawfish tails, lobster, and shrimp, served with andouille sausage and brown rice.
“It’s for the people that travel down here and want to try that Cajun-style dish,” Smith said. “If we took it off the menu, people would be very angry with us.”
Also popular is the Sweet & Spicy Snapper, which Smith said leans more Asian-style with its jasmine rice, sugar snap peas, melon, cashews and miso lemongrass coulis.
“We’ve had a lot of people say that’s the best fish dish they’ve ever eaten,” Smith admitted, adding they will have to keep this one on the menu, too, along with a fresh grouper offering.
But it’s not all seafood, all the time at Surfing Deer. Where many chefs would offer a catch of the day special, Smith has elected instead to do a daily Chef’s Butcher Cut that has proved to be very popular.
“We offer whatever kind of cool butcher’s cut I can come up with, be it a cowboy ribeye, something pork or beef. It gives us chefs something we can play with every day and come up with different ideas,” he explained.
Guests with dietary restrictions will appreciate the menu clearly identifies dishes that are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or have the option to be gluten-free. You’ll notice Smith is big on the concept of shareable plates, too.
Families should not be turned off by the trendiness of the venue or the menu, as Smith also accommodates younger palates with his kids’ choices, Fawn Favorites. From standards like chicken tenders and pasta, to upscale selections like petite filet mignon, and fried or grilled fresh fish bites, parents don’t need to find a sitter for their big night out.
More than the menu
The dining space includes traditional indoor seating, a stunning curved bar, and outdoor patio space highlighted by romantic water features. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow for plenty of light inside, while the covered patio keeps outdoor diners shaded during the warmest months. That al fresco option proved very popular this past year, and Smith said they actually have more outdoor seating than indoor.
The cocktail menu is divided into four sections: Fine Wine, Deer Beer, Martinis, and Deerly Mixed. Sippers can delight in everything from a bottle of the 2017 Nickel & Nickel State Ranch to a local Idyll Hounds Ghost Crab Pilsna, the Bambi Tini (nectarine vodka, strawberries, lavender-lemon syrup, prosecco) to the Cube McGee (bourbon, maple syrup, bitters, orange, lemon, blackberry).
Smith acknowledged that the space is indeed lovely and the menu stellar, but guests especially love that they can place a to-go order or make a reservation – including for a large party.
“With our online reservations, people are not having to stand outside for an hour-and-a-half, waiting to get in,” the chef pointed out. “Knowing that they can make a reservation early in the week for a large group, be it 12, 16 people, and they can be done, I think that’s one of the big appeals of our restaurant. They’re not being rushed, they can take their time, and have a good family time.”
Surfing Deer is located at 2743 E. Co. Hwy 30A, Santa Rosa Beach. Guests are welcome Monday to Saturday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. For more information, including how to make a reservation, reach them by phone at 850-213-4200 or online at surfingdeer.com.