Chef Shirley sizzles by the Seaside

Great Southern Cafe • b.f.f. • The Chicken Shack • C-Bar • The Meltdown on 30A

By Michelle Farnham
July 5, 2023

SEASIDE – Few people have left a greater mark on the South Walton area than Chef Jim Shirley, who first set up shop here in 2006, triggering the roll-out of new eateries every few years. After 17 years of filling bellies and wetting whistles, Shirley has eight local brands to his name – five of which call Seaside Central Square home.

Great Southern Cafe

Great Southern Cafe

One of the most iconic and requested restaurants along the Emerald Coast is Shirley’s local flagship, Great Southern Cafe. Serving what he calls “New-fashioned Southern cuisine” Great Southern tells the story of the chef-owner’s history through Gulf-fresh ingredients.

Start your day with an order of tomato Benedict, beignets, fresh-squeezed juice, or the house specialty: grits and grillades with its slow-roasted beef and veggies on Gouda grits.

The lunch/dinner menu offers such Southern delicacies as crisp frog legs, blue crab claws, and the Great Southern Seafood Plateau: a feast of oysters, shrimp, lobster tails and marinated jumbo lump crab.

Here you’ll find steaks, salads, sandwiches, and Shirley’s signature dish: Grits a Ya Ya, made with shrimp, bacon, spinach, mushrooms, all on a bed of Gouda cheese grits. Don’t miss happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. daily from the extensive bar.

Great Southern is located at 83 Central Square and is open 365 days a year for breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. and lunch/dinner from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Reservations are suggested, but walk-ins are welcome. For more information, visit or call 850-231-7327.



Attached to Great Southern is one of Shirley’s newest spots: b.f.f. (which stands for Bushwackers, Frosé, Frozens) Here you’ll find a lineup of frozen drinks like the Painkiller (vodka, pineapple, coconut and vanilla ice cream), the Cold Fashioned (bourbon, citrus and bitters) or the Frojito (rum, lime, mint, syrup).

Hold the booze on your frozen concoction or make it a double! A selection of draft beers is also available.

Open seasonally, find b.f.f. at 83 Central Square in Seaside and online at

The Chicken Shack The Chicken Shack

Move a few feet to the East and you’ll stumble upon The Great Southern Cafe’s Chicken Shack! Inspired by every mama’s fried chicken, Shirley offers sweat tea-brined bird as a meal or a sandwich, along with such sides as Brussels sprouts slaw, sweet tater tots and loaded potato salad. Bone-in chicken is cooked to order (so plan ahead) or order online for take-out. Can you say “beach picnic”?

Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., The Chicken Shack is at 87 Central Square in Santa Rosa Beach and can be found online at



Short for “Container Bar,” Shirley’s C-Bar is housed in an upcycled shipping container. Saddle up for a drink on Seaside’s scenic square or take your drink to explore! Order food off the neighboring Great Southern Cafe’s menu, or pick your potion from the drinks menu: mojitos, cocktails, beer or wine.

Mojitos come in a variety of fruit flavors, everything from coconut-melon to guava-pineapple. Try a Grown Folks Tea (bourbon, tea, soda, lemon) or a Habañero Margarita. Watch for happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. daily.

Situated at 87 Central Square, C-Bar is serving drinks daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Menu and more info are at

The Meltdown on 30A

The Meltdown on 30A

Swing out to Seaside’s Airstream Row to find The Meltdown on 30A, a food truck slinging gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. In addition to roasted tomato soup and a selection of beverages, you’ll find such gooey handhelds as the Strawberry Goat Forever (goat cheese, preserves and prosciutto), This Little Figgy (brie, bacon, fig compote), or the 5-Cheese Bomb with – you guessed it – five kinds of cheese. Tender tasters will enjoy the Little Meltdown made with American cheese, and they’ll cut the crust off.

All sandwiches are served on wheat or gluten-free bread and can be made into a combo to include chips and a fountain drink.

Visit The Meltdown on 30A at 2235 E. Co. Hwy. 30A from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily or find them online at

Main photo by Kurt Lischka