By Caroline Giddis
The area around Scenic Highway 30A has quickly become known for its amazing selection of high-end restaurants, but we have quite a few laid-back hot spots that are hidden just off the beaten path. From unassuming lunch eateries to tucked-away wine bars, we’ve rounded up some of the best-kept foodie secrets in South Walton.
Pizza, Thai food and pickles… what? You can get all of these somewhat random options and more at Pickle Factory, which shares the name of a restaurant that chef Jeffrey Fehr opened in Bangkok, Thailand.
The laid-back restaurant in Grayton Beach focuses on creating a friendly atmosphere and delicious pizza with a wide variety of exotic flavors to choose from. Fehr traveled to Italy in 1996 to study how to make the perfect pizza, which paid off as his pizza became a favorite in Bangkok and is now a favorite in South Walton.
Pickle Factory doesn’t have a set closing time at night, instead they close when everyone decides to go home – a true testament to their love of people.
Tucked off the road leading into Grayton Beach, Chanticleer Eatery can be easy to miss, but definitely shouldn’t be. What was once a lunch counter with walk-up ordering (and long, but quick, lines) has grown into a table-service restaurant serving both lunch and dinner.
Chanticleer demonstrates that you can make delicious food without all the fuss, as long as every ingredient is fresh. With both indoor and dog-friendly outdoor seating, it’s a great place for all ages and breeds. Our recommendation: the “pick two” option with half Southern Summer Salad and half Chanticleer Grilled Cheese – it’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of (plus bacon!). Don’t leave without getting a white chocolate coconut or chocolate-chip cookie.
Lumpy’s Wine Bar & Bottle Shop
Dogs and wine, wine and dogs: this was Lumpy the dachshund’s vision for his wine bar, which has become a very popular secret spot for humans and their furry friends.
Located in Baytowne Wharf, Lumpy’s boasts an extensive wine selection. The menu includes a few appetizer cheese plates to snack on while sipping your favorite pinot, cabernet or chardonnay. They also serve mixed drinks and coffee.
Lumpy’s celebrates Sommelier Saturdays and Wine Down Wednesdays by offering great deals and fun events each week. It’s the perfect place after a ruff week!
La Chalupita Mexican Market
La Chalupita is so authentic and delicious, you’ll want to extend Taco Tuesday to Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. (We do!)
This lunch counter will transport you to a small town in Mexico, where the food is fresh and flavorful. Tacos are the way to go, whether it’s chicken, steak or fish, and they have a number of toppings to choose from like avocado, radish and lettuce. The spicy sauces are great for dipping or pouring, but beware, some are SUPER spicy.
You can also buy authentic seasoned meats and veggies from the restaurant deli to make your own tacos or quesadillas at home.
Grayton Seafood Co.
One of the newer restaurants in South Walton, Grayton Seafood Co. is a no-frills spot for some of the freshest seafood around.
The restaurant has the feel of a quaint New England clam shack but with Florida charm. If you happen to catch some redfish or grouper on the boat one day, you can take it with you to Grayton Seafood Co. and they’ll cook it for you however you want – a well-kept local secret.
They also have a great brunch menu with flavorful dishes like the crab cake benny and the oyster and tasso cream omelette. Yum!
Johnny McTighe’s Irish Pub
Tucked in an unassuming shopping center in Blue Mountain Beach, this hole in the wall is a locals’ favorite for pub and late-night food. It’s a great place to meet friends (new and old), grab a pint and chow down on fish and chips, hand-breaded chicken fingers, delicious string-cut french fries or tater tots smothered and covered with cheese and other goodies. Or try the Joey Bag O’ Donuts, a unique take on the Philly Cheese Steak.
McTighe’s also serves up some great pizza, both to eat in or take out. With tons of delicious and interesting toppings to choose from, the combinations are endless. If you’re looking for some bar fun, McTighe’s has darts, foosball and a juke box.
Caroline Giddis is a summer intern for The 30A Company.