By Lauren Sage Reinlie
June 3, 2023
GRAYTON BEACH – When locals Jimmy Hasser and Adam Yellin, the longstanding duo behind the popular Blue Mountain restaurant Local Catch, were approached about taking over Chanticleer Eatery, it was a no-brainer.
“It was a wildly successful local place, which fit in with what we were doing at Local Catch,” Hasser said. “We like the tourists, but we know that to survive, we have to have the locals. Our wives loved eating there. It was really a ‘Why not?’”
Chanticleer opened in 2012, tucked in an unassuming, off-the-beaten-path corner of Grayton Beach. Even so, the place was beloved by locals for its fresh-baked bread, delicious sandwiches, crisp salads, hearty soups, and more, all served up in a laid-back atmosphere a few minutes from the beach. (It’s fine dining in flip flops, as Hasser described it.)
Over the past couple of years, the owners had struggled to keep the place open consistently, especially for dinner service. When Hasser and Yellin took over management in November 2021, one of their first goals was to re-establish consistent dining hours. They wanted people to know they were back in business.
“We didn’t really want to change much,” Hasser said. “We wanted to keep the same dishes everyone loved but add a few new ingredients or items.”
To head the kitchen, they brought in Chef Innocent Utomi, who has served as executive chef at Capital Grille in Miami, Fleming’s Steakouse, and Great Southern Café in Seaside.
“He wanted a change, and we were excited to bring him in with his recipes and his team of people that follow him,” Hasser said. “He is the nicest, sweetest chef I have ever known. No ego. He’s just a special, amazing person. He is the one who makes it special with so much talent, and he builds so much camaraderie.”
Jay Etheredge came on as general manager after holding that role at Bud and Alley’s Pizza Bar in Seaside for years.
“We really have the perfect team in place,” Hasser said.
The lunch menu has stayed almost the same with all the crowd-pleasing sandwiches, soups, and salads in addition to fine dining entrees, including the fresh catch of the day, filet mignon, shrimp and grits, and a soul-soothing, spicy Not Your Mama’s chicken and rice plate.
“The grilled cheese is honestly the best I have ever had,” Hasser said. Fresh slices of rosemary-sage bread are filled with melted cheddar, provolone, and mozzarella cheese and topped with bacon and bruschetta. Other options include the Reuben with house-smoked pastrami served on freshly baked farmhouse rye, melted Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing; tomato soup; and a Southern summer salad with fresh fruit and Gorgonzola.
All the bread, desserts, and “those cookies everyone is obsessed with” are baked in-house. (Cookie options are chocolate chip or a coconut and white chocolate number, often hot from the oven.)
One of Utomi’s menu additions is the Happy Tuna, a serving of raw ahi tuna poke, marinated in fresh ginger, soy, and pepper sauce, tossed with mango and avocado, and topped with pickled cucumbers and red onions. He brings his Fleming’s Steakhouse chops to their filet mignon. For dinner service, he’s added a lobster bisque, surf and turf with lobster, and more seafood options.
Hasser and Yellin opened Local Catch in a run-down, double-wide trailer in 2012, starting from scratch. It quickly became a popular staple of the Blue Mountain neighborhood. Hasser has four kids, Yellin has three. They are here to stay, Hasser said.
“We are fully inundated in the schools and the community. We’re in it for the long haul,” Hasser said. “We believe in this area and want it to work for us.”
Chanticleer Eatery is located at 55 Clayton Lane, Santa Rosa Beach. No reservations are accepted. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Reach them by phone at 850-213-9065. Additional information, including a full menu, can be found at chanticleereatery.com.