5 Best Restaurants in Santa Rosa Beach, FL

5 Best Restaurants in Santa Rosa Beach, FL

Santa Rosa Beach, located along Florida's beautiful Emerald Coast, is a hidden gem for food enthusiasts. This picturesque town offers a diverse array of dining experiences that cater to various tastes and preferences. Whether you're a local or a visitor, these five restaurants in Santa Rosa Beach, FL, provide exceptional cuisine, unique ambiance, and memorable dining experiences.

1. The Bay: Coastal Elegance with a Waterfront View

Located right on the Choctawhatchee Bay, The Bay is a must-visit for anyone seeking a refined dining experience with stunning waterfront views. Chef Jim Shirley, a celebrated local culinary artist, has crafted a menu that beautifully blends Southern comfort food with Asian and Caribbean influences.

Menu highlights include the Bay Burger, a mouthwatering blend of brisket, short rib, and chuck, served with house-made pickles and a side of truffle fries. The Gulf Coast Paella is a vibrant dish packed with fresh Gulf seafood, saffron rice, and chorizo, perfect for sharing. The homemade gnocchi, served with a rich bolognese sauce, is a must-try for those who love pasta.

The Bay's open-air deck provides a relaxed atmosphere where diners can enjoy the scenic beauty of the bay. Live music performances add to the lively yet laid-back vibe, making it an excellent spot for both casual lunches and romantic dinners.

2. Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar: Gulf Coast Vibes and Fresh Seafood

Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar is a favorite among locals and visitors alike for its laid-back atmosphere, friendly service, and fresh Gulf seafood. Situated on the scenic 30A, this restaurant offers stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico, making it an ideal spot to enjoy a meal while enjoying the coastal beauty.

The menu features highlights such as oysters on the half shell, which are locally sourced and served raw or chargrilled with garlic butter and parmesan. Another standout dish is the shrimp and grits, a Southern classic with a twist featuring plump Gulf shrimp served over creamy cheese grits with a savory Andouille sausage gravy. The fried green tomato BLT offers a creative take on the traditional BLT, with crispy fried green tomatoes, thick-cut bacon, lettuce, and a tangy remoulade on toasted sourdough. For a taste of the Gulf, the grouper tacos are a must-try, featuring fresh Gulf grouper lightly blackened and served in warm tortillas with cabbage slaw, avocado, and a zesty lime crema.

Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar boasts a relaxed, beachy atmosphere with a spacious outdoor patio perfect for enjoying the Florida sunshine—the interior features rustic coastal decor, creating a warm and inviting environment. Live music and a lively bar scene add to the restaurant's vibrant and fun atmosphere, making it a great place to unwind with friends and family.

3. Chanticleer Eatery: Casual Dining with a Gourmet Twist

Chanticleer Eatery offers a laid-back dining experience with a menu that focuses on gourmet sandwiches, fresh salads, and hearty entrees. Located just a short walk from the beach, this restaurant is a popular choice for both lunch and dinner, thanks to its casual atmosphere and delicious, high-quality food.

Patrons can enjoy the Prime Rib Sandwich, featuring tender, slow-cooked prime rib served on a toasted ciabatta roll with horseradish aioli and au jus for dipping. The Blackened Shrimp Salad is refreshing with blackened Gulf shrimp, mixed greens, avocado, and a tangy citrus vinaigrette. For dessert, the Key Lime Pie is a classic Florida treat, made with a graham cracker crust and a tart, creamy key lime filling.

Chanticleer Eatery's charming outdoor patio is surrounded by lush greenery, creating a peaceful and relaxing dining environment. Inside, the rustic decor and friendly service make it a welcoming spot for families and groups of friends.

4. Cafe Thirty-A: Fine Dining with a Southern Flair

Cafe Thirty-A is a staple in Santa Rosa Beach's dining scene, known for its upscale yet approachable Southern-inspired cuisine. Chef Jim Richard has created a menu that combines classic Southern flavors with modern culinary techniques, resulting in dishes that are both familiar and innovative.

There is a Grilled Lobster Tail, a succulent lobster tail served with drawn butter and a side of creamy grits. The Pork Tenderloin is another standout, served with sweet potato mash and a bourbon glaze. The Tiramisu is a decadent choice for dessert, layered with espresso-soaked ladyfingers, mascarpone cheese, and cocoa powder.

The elegant yet comfortable setting of Cafe Thirty-A makes it ideal for romantic dinners and celebratory meals. The restaurant's extensive wine list and impeccable service further enhance the dining experience, making it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

5. Great Southern Cafe: Southern Comfort with a Modern Twist

Great Southern Cafe offers a unique blend of traditional Southern comfort food with contemporary culinary flair. Chef Jim Shirley's creative approach to Southern cuisine, along with its inventive dishes and vibrant atmosphere, has earned this restaurant a loyal following.

Menu highlights include the signature Grits à Ya Ya, featuring creamy cheese grits topped with a rich sauce of shrimp, bacon, spinach, and portobello mushrooms. The Fried Green Tomatoes are a crispy, golden-fried treat served with a tangy remoulade sauce. For a main course, the Pecan-Crusted Grouper is a fresh Gulf grouper coated in a crunchy pecan crust, served with a side of collard greens and sweet potato fries.

Great Southern Cafe's lively and inviting atmosphere is perfect for casual dining with friends and family. The restaurant's outdoor seating area offers a great spot to enjoy the beautiful Florida weather while savoring delicious Southern dishes.

Santa Rosa Beach's Top Dining Spots

Santa Rosa Beach, FL, is home to a diverse and vibrant culinary scene that caters to all tastes and preferences. From the elegant waterfront dining at The Bay to the cozy, upscale experience at Restaurant Paradis, each of these five restaurants offers something unique and memorable.

Whether you're in the mood for gourmet sandwiches at Chanticleer Eatery, Southern-inspired fine dining at Cafe Thirty-A, or creative comfort food at Great Southern Cafe, you're sure to find a dining experience that delights your taste buds and leaves you wanting more.

Exploring the best restaurants in Santa Rosa Beach is not just about enjoying great food; it's also about immersing yourself in the local culture and hospitality that make this coastal town so special. So, whether you're a resident or a visitor, make sure to add these culinary gems to your must-visit list and experience the delicious flavors and warm ambiance that Santa Rosa Beach has to offer.

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