By Michelle Farnham
June 22, 2023
SANTA ROSA BEACH – As the head of Jim Shirley Enterprises, entrepreneur and chef Jim Shirley is a well-known culinary name here on the Emerald Coast. Among his empire is a trio of restaurants located at the foot of the Route 331 bridge on the shores of the Choctawhatchee Bay, uniquely positioned for water views and stunning sunsets, in addition to innovative eats.
The “OG” eatery of Shirley’s Choctawhatchee Bay collection is aptly named The Bay. Specializing in Gulf Coast Southern cuisine, The Bay is home to award-winning local seafood, house-made sushi, a wide bar selection including draft beer, wine and cocktails, and both indoor and outdoor seating.
Notable small plates include the house-made pork cracklings with a selection of dipping sauces and the Point Washington spring rolls filled with alligator! Sushi is made to order with combos like the Kelli Roll (ginger shrimp and spicy tuna) or the Jon The 2nd Roll (yellowtail, spicy mayo and a baked spicy tuna crunch).
Signature large plate options include Faux Ya Ya, Shirley’s re-imagined take on shrimp and grits, made instead with fried polenta cakes. Seafood options include oysters, shrimp, or Gulf fish – each served fried, grilled or blackened. Also enjoy char-grilled steaks, sandwiches, sides and desserts.
Secure your seat with a reservation, order food for pickup, or have it delivered by 30A Grub 2 Go, all via their website.
The Bay is located at 24215 Hwy. 331 and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., with Happy Hour each day from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information including live music and other outdoor fun, visit baysouthwalton.com or call 850-622-2291.
Farm & Fire
Across the street from The Bay is Farm & Fire, dubbed “The meeting place.” Featuring a seasonal menu that rotates offerings, staff carefully curate the beverage program to pair well with eats.
From the “To Share” menu, try the fig and brie naan, the Korean pork bites, or hand-rolled dumplings. Farm Features include an 8-ounce Wagyu burger, lo mein, Gulf redfish, or rotating pizza specials. Find sushi, nigiri and sashimi here, too, like the Dr. Feel Good Roll (hamachi, lemon and fire sauce), The Steel Fox Roll (ginger fried shrimp, cucumber and eel sauce), or the Crunchy Munchies Roll (ginger fried shrimp, tuna, cream cheese and tempura crunchies).
Farm & Fire is located at 24200 Hwy. 331 and is open Sunday to Wednesday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Thursday to Saturday 4 to 10:30 p.m. Check out the menu at farmandfiresouthwalton.com or call 850-622-3871.
North Beach Social
The newest spot in Jim Shirley’s empire is North Beach Social, conveniently situated downstairs from Farm & Fire. This open-air beach bar offers your choice of patio seating or dig your toes in the sand at one of the beach tables. NBS is an opportunity to try the best of what Jim Shirley is doing here in South Walton, as the menu is a collection of his greatest hits. Order his famous Grits a Ya Ya, the Bomber Burger, tuna poké bowls, fish tacos, or pecan pie stuffed cheesecake (yes, you read that right.)
A family-friendly place, the kids menu offers fare fit for younger palates, or start your meal with the likes of fried cheese curds, fried pickles and hot peppers, or raw Gulf oysters. For breakfast, you might order the breakfast tacos, an organic acai bowl, or sip on something off the libations menu.
Located at 24200 Hwy. 331 South, North Beach Social is open weekdays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and for breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekends. Visit www.northbeach.social or call 850-622-8110.
Main photo by Kurt Lischka