Surfing Deer: Celebrating a storied history

By Sarah Murphy Robertson
July 24, 2022

SEAGROVE BEACH – There’s lots of talk about the good old days, but what if sitting down and sharing a meal is still alive in these good new days?

The storied history of the land where Surfing Deer sits, now called Seagrove Beach, starts three quarters of a century ago with a man with a vision. C.H. McGee knew beauty when he saw it and became one of the first property owners in this area.

Interestingly, his son, Cube McGee, kept an unusual pet – a deer. They were often seen together along the water’s edge, playing in the surf. Hence the origins of this restaurant’s name: Surfing Deer.

Surfing Deer
The menu includes an assortment of seafood and meat, as well as vegetarian options.

Skilled cookery

While doors officially open at 5 p.m. for dinner service, Surfing Deer begins their prep work early in the morning as cuts of meat are braised, vegetables are diced, and sauces are made for that night’s service.

Inspired by the seasons, but rooted in the fundamentals of skilled cookery, the culinary team at Surfing Deer sail under the stewardship of Executive Chef Greggory Smith. Smith’s high attention to detail and impeccable work ethic is a key element to the restaurant’s success.

Warmer temps and springtime availability mean seasonally fresh, regional produce and lighter sauces highlight their snapper and grouper dishes, Smith shared. He also divulged that their spring menu will bring back the much-requested, much-craved Banana Pudding Cheesecake.

While Surfing Deer does rotate menus seasonally, their filet is always offered year-round. Owner George Hartley described the certified Angus cut as served with a bacon onion jam which “sends it over the top.”

Their beef is the bomb, but Surfing Deer takes great care in adapting to all diets.

“Our offerings for vegetarians and vegans are miles ahead of what you find at most places,” Hartley explained. Surfing Deer doesn’t phone it in when it comes to plant-based dishes, either. Take their Sichuan Rice Bowl. This beauty is composed with crisped miso-glazed tofu, black rice, sweet peppers, shimeji mushrooms, and sugar snap peas, all topped with a flavorful peanut ginger sauce.

Spread the word: you must also save room for their bread course and later, for dessert. From skillet cookies topped a la mode to their freshly made honey wheat loaves and jalapeño cornbread (all served warm with clover honey butter), Pastry Chef Rachele McCulley is conductor of a harmonious symphony. She is incredibly talented and her creativity means diners savor every morsel of their meals.

“Every sauce and component of our desserts are made in-house,” Hartley emphasized.

Surfing Deer
The peanut butter chocolate cake is among the sweet treats.

Reservations recommended

With meals this impeccable, word of mouth travels fast. Planning ahead for your dinner visit at Surfing Deer is important.

“We often hear, ‘I am back and I brought my friends,’” Hartley laughed. Recommendations from local hotel concierges and property managers also ensure Surfing Deer stays booked up, so making reservations is necessary.

Dining out gives us all the chance to put down our phones and connect through a slowed down, shared experience around the table. Mealtime is not just about eating. It’s about celebrating our relationships, trying new things, and celebrating the retelling of old stories.

Surfing Deer is located in Seagrove Beach at 2743 E. Co. Hwy. 30A, Santa Rosa Beach. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 5 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner, reservations are highly recommended. Reach them by phone at 850-213-4200 or online at