Culinary Views & Coastal Stewardship: Madison Shirley on Farm & Fire’s Brunch and Bay Commitment - 30A


Culinary Views & Coastal Stewardship: Madison Shirley on Farm & Fire’s Brunch and Bay Commitment

By: Carrie Honaker | Posted Apr 16, 2024

Get the Korean Rice Bowl, she said. You’ll love it, she said. The fried egg oozing over the sticky rice and fresh kimchi is amazing, she said. 

That she was Madison Shirley, Vice President of Jim Shirley Enterprises, and she was absolutely correct.

Farm & Fire (part of Jim Shirley Enterprises) overlooks the Choctawhatchee Bay and they just added brunch to their menu. On Saturdays and Sundays, strains of jazz music can be heard throughout the window-laden space. Steampunk-style accents, copper piping, deep red curtains add to the ambiance, and a bar occupying the entire middle of the upper deck overflows with lively conversation and loaded bloody marys. Glancing out the windows on the sandy beach area below, children build blue foam castles, throw footballs, and play cornhole while parents enjoy a drink by the water.

Once known for their coal-fired pizzas, Farm & Fire went through some changes and now offers a more eclectic menu suited to espoused customers’ desires.

Pizza remains an option, but more shareables, like Madison’s favorite salmon sushi, joined the mix.

“My dad and I thought about what we like when we go to a bar, whether that’s an izakaya in Japan, a tapas place in Spain, a pub in Ireland, or a dive bar here. What is it that we want to eat and share with the people sitting next to us? Thinking of all those places we created this eclectic menu. We kept some favorites from the original and added more global bar fare,” says Madison.

A sleeper dish on the dinner menu according to Madison is the Gulf redfish over house fried rice. She added, “It’s really exceptionally done. It’s got a little extra glaze on it. It fills the stomach without being too heavy at the same time and it is full of flavor.”

There’s also Jim’s famous paella on Wednesday nights, kung pao Brussel sprouts, fig and brie naan, and a burger that spans brunch and dinner you won’t want to miss—tender Wagyu beef is topped with American cheese (the best melting cheese iykyk), roasted shitake mushrooms, tabasco onion rings, little gem lettuce, pecan bacon, pickles, and of course, an egg if you order it at brunch.

Speaking of brunch, the frittata that arrives at my table is no slouch. A delicate little gem salad with cucumber and baby heirloom tomatoes sits lightly dressed on the side. The frittata, fresh out of the cast iron pan, is light and fluffy without a hint of overdoneness. Freshly grated parmesan adds the perfect garnish. And then there’s the Korean rice bowl. A base of crispy rice cake is topped with earthy mushrooms and tender beef, homemade kimchi that delivers just the right amount of funk, zesty marinated cucumbers, and the all-important egg. Pro tip: order two eggs, over medium for the perfect glaze of yolky gravy.

Sated, I peeked out the window again and noticed the tail of a new largescale Andy Saczynski work. I knew Jim commissioned the piece, but seeing it in person is awe-inspiring. According to Madison, Jim and Andy have been friends since Jim moved to the area to open Great Southern 18 years ago. Saczynski’s artwork can be seen throughout all of Jim’s restaurants and at Shirley’s home as well. The large-scale installation on the bay-facing side of Farm & Fire portrays a rare Rice’s whale.

“My dad heard about Rice’s whale, the only native species of whale to the Gulf of Mexico that was thought to be extinct. When he heard they had been found, he wanted to sponsor an art piece that focused on this beautiful new species that had been discovered and also provided a commentary on the impact humanity has on the oceans. The whole mural is made with found products repurposed or reused in one way or another. My dad gave Andy this prompt and he went crazy with it and made an absolutely amazing piece,” says Madison.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officially recognized Rice’s whale as a new species in 2021. It is the only year-round resident baleen whale in the Gulf of Mexico. With a population of just 51, they are one of the world’s most endangered baleen whales. According to NOAA, “the most significant threats Rice’s whales face are energy exploration and development, oil spills, and chemicals used to disperse oil after a spill. The whales were hit hard by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

Weighing in at up to 60,000 pounds, Rice’s whales are about the size of a fire truck, toothless, and in need of protection. The mural Jim commissioned hopefully spreads awareness about this endangered species that makes its home in our waters.

The Shirleys strengthen their community with every choice they make from sustainably-minded operations to sourcing from local farmers like Vale of Paradise Mushrooms to supporting local artists like Andy Saczynski. That’s reason enough to patronize Farm & Fire, but then there’s the food and incredible sunsets over the Choctawhatchee Bay that seal the deal.

To learn more, visit Farm & Fire or follow them on Facebook.


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Carrie Honaker is a Florida-based freelance writer who is not sure where she will land next, but it will involve messy eating, a spicy Tempranillo, and finding the local dive bar. Her work has been featured in Wine Enthusiast, Bon Appetit, and others. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @writeonhonaker.