By Rita Montgomery
Photos by Jill Tanner at Clutch Media Works and Julia Kate Mace
On any given day, 30A visitors and locals alike will visit four to six of our topnotch bars and restaurants. Often, vacationers find a place they love and visit more than once during a week’s stay. Luckily, I live in this Gulf Coast paradise. While I love new places, my family, friends, and I certainly have our favorites. The fabulous food and cocktail offerings in South Walton County are so abundant that vacationers and residents can easily find delightful options. Fortunately, those options are usually only a short bike ride or easy walk away. The East End of Scenic Highway 30A is a perfect example.
THE CITIZEN on Mark Twain Lane at Alys Beach has one of the best charcuterie boards on 30A, but my go-to appetizer is Jeremy’s whipped feta topped with a honey swirl. The cocktails are as tasty as they are beautiful, particularly the Boardwalk Bound, made with Empress gin, passionfruit, Velvet Falernum, lemon, and orgeat syrup.
Located on Barrett Square in Rosemary Beach, RESTAURANT PARADIS is home to the best diver scallops (harvested by hand from the ocean’s floor) in the area. Paradis sears the large mollusks and serves them with a mild mushroom and sweet pea risotto and carrot beurre blanc. Their soft-shell crab is also popular; not on the menu, but often the special, it’s a must if you luck up and hit the right night. The bartenders pour some of the best martinis in town. During my last visit, one of them crafted a specialty drink just for me with watermelon puree, blanco tequila, soda, a lime wedge, and a slice of jalapeno. We (actually, I) named it “The Rita.”
PESCADO SEAFOOD GRILL & ROOFTOP BAR on Town Hall in Rosemary Beach is known for the amazing view. Visitors will appreciate the view while sipping an impressive signature cocktail like the Rosemary 76 or Fatal Flaw. The bartenders never disappoint. My preferred appetizer is the steak tartare with crispy shallots, capers, quail egg, Dijon, and jalapeños.
AMIGOS 30A MEXICAN KITCHEN on 30Avenue has the corner on chicken nachos, which pair perfectly with their signature margarita’s. I love the Blood Orange & the Blueberry Basil! The culinary artists at Amigos put the happy in happy hour.
At the east end gateway to 30A, SHADES BAR AND GRILL is a gathering spot beloved by locals, and it’s known for its amazing brew selection and spicy volcano shrimp—severed fried with a sweet, spicy sauce. The laid-back atmosphere loaded with fun activities, and every age is welcome.
The award-winning HAVANA BEACH BAR at the Pearl Hotel in Rosemary Beach features a hidden gem. In the downstairs main bar, tucked-away in the back, is a swanky lounge that boasts oversized chairs and sofas. The large-print tropical floor covering transports you to old Cuba. I order jumbo lump crab cakes served with crawfish cream, microgreens, and lemon vinaigrette. Every menu item finds its match with one of many curated wines.
While this list is long, my guess is that you will try any one of these delightful destinations and quickly become a repeat visitor.