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A Southern Staple in Seaside The Great Southern Café b y Te s s F a r m e r
Grits a Ya Ya
of the great food and people I’ve met along the road,” says Shirley. “Here in Seaside, we mix a taste for international cuisines with Southern cooking and sustainably-sourced, local food.” Even the building has a storied history. Legend has it that around 1988, several houses in nearby Chattahoochee, Florida were to be practically given away to make room for a road project. A young couple had become enchanted with Seaside and wanted to live there. In an effort to forego architects and builders they set out to convince town founders, Robert and Daryl Rose Davis, to allow them to move one of the Chattahoochee houses to a lot on East Ruskin Street. Not too long after Seaside was becoming known and upon learning the house on East Ruskin Street was for sale, the Davises bought the small cottage from the couple and moved it to Central Square. They knew some food options and a few wine selections would be a hit; and once again the little house was on the move and opened as The Rose Cafe. Down the road years later, Shirley bought the restaurant and it became the Great Southern Café in 2006, paying homage ever since to the building’s rich history, and reflecting a menu that is truly Southern in every way. For details on hours of operation and to view a menu, visit thegreatsoutherncafe.com. Attached to the Great Southern Cafe, B.f.f. specializes in boozy bush- wackers, frosé and frozen beverages. Chef Shirley’s family of restaurants also includes other local favorites: Meltdown on 30A, 45 Central Wine and Sushi Bar, The Bay, and Farm & Fire Southern Pizzeria.
A mainstay on Central Square for nearly 15 years, the Great Southern Café is now a part of the Seaside tradition. The coastal casual restaurant fuses Southern cooking with flavors from around the world, and features local produce, meat, and dairy from nearby farms and fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. “We pride ourselves on our connection to the local community and strive to be a cornerstone of support and reliability to our people. It’s the foundation of our company’s mission,” says owner and Chef Jim Shirley. In the mid-90s, Shirley opened his first restaurant in Pensacola: Madison’s Diner (named after his daughter Madison). This was followed by the Screaming Coyote and The Fish House in 1998. Following these successes, he launched the Great Southern Café in 2006. Sunday brunch is a tradition on 30-A, and at Great Southern Café it’s met with beignets and coffee, crowd- pleasing Bloody Marys, and a fried green tomato benedict, to name a few customer favorites. Be sure to top your classic breakfast off with Big Jim’s World Famous Oyster Juice in the tequila bottles on each table.
Shirley’s signature dish, Grits à Ya Ya, is a customer favorite and celebrated around the nation. The dish was named “best Southern dish in the state of Florida” by Florida Travel and Life magazine. It was also chosen by U.S. Congressman Jeff Miller (former Florida state representative) to take to Washington, D.C. for A Taste of the South, an event held on Capitol Hill for over 1000 dignitaries. Shirley and his team incorporate Southern accents into new culinary ideas and trends, select fine wines, and seek out partnerships with local farmers to supply fresh produce, meats and dairy. As a Pensacola native, Chef Shirley applies his knowledge of local waters and his family’s farming histories to promote sustainable agriculture and fishing. His style of cooking is one he calls modern southern cuisine. As the son of a Navy pilot who was stationed all around the world, Shirley learned to enjoy a variety of foods from many cultures. But he always goes back to his roots—his grandmother’s traditional Southern cooking. “I believe our histories are told by the food we cook and eat and Great Southern tells the story of my history,
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