Strumming on the Shoreline: Old Florida Fish House Hosts Tuneful Evenings by the Lake - 30A

Strumming on the Shoreline: Old Florida Fish House Hosts Tuneful Evenings by the Lake

By: Gen Handley | Posted Mar 8, 2024

The transformation of the Old Florida Fish House from a small seafood restaurant into a premier 30A dining and entertainment destination has been years in the making.

The newest enhancement for the Fish House is a Lakeside Songwriter Concert Series, featuring some of Country music’s most talented artists. The Series is every Friday evening, beginning March 22, until May 3rd.

Artists include Charles Esten, an accomplished singer, songwriter, and actor. Esten is well known for his roles in Netflix’s hit series Outer Banks and ABC’s Nashville. Click HERE for tickets!

“We are excited to bring a new series to 30A,” stated Keith O’Leary, owner of the Fish House. The O’Leary family purchased the Fish House in 2018 and has been making improvements ever since. Improvements over the past half-decade include sourcing fresh and sustainable seafood and meat from all over the world, serving food from an all-scratch kitchen, enhancing seating areas to showcase the beauty of Eastern Lake, and featuring quality live entertainment most nights of the year.

Craig Campbell

“This project has been a labor of love for our entire family,” according to wife and co-owner Tammie O’Leary. Tammie’s specialty is designing and maintaining the lush outdoor seating, which is adorned with café lights, natural oaks, and whisps of Spanish moss. Keith’s area is working with the team to ensure the best food, service, and entertainment possible.

The O’Learys first purchased a property next to the Fish House when they still lived in a suburb of St. Louis.

“We were regular visitors to 30A until we finally said it was time to make the move,” Tammie recalled. They uprooted their two youngest children and began their journey from the Midwest to the Emerald Coast over a decade ago. Initially, the plans for 30A property were for it to be a small business project for the O’Learys, such as a coffee shop or boutique. Then the next-door Fish House became available, and the entire family agreed it was worth the risk to “go all in on 30A.” They decided it was too special of an opportunity to be able to transform the restaurant and the entire property.

“Our goal when we bought the restaurant was to create a place where we would want to take our family and friends to enjoy an authentic 30A experience,” he said. Now, six years later, the family has accomplished that goal and more, creating a renowned destination in Santa Rosa Beach in the heart of 30A known for not only delicious food and flavors but also live music and memories.

The O’Learys’ dream is becoming even more of a reality with the Lakeside Songwriters Concert Series, with six performances from singer-songwriters in intimate settings where they can openly and easily connect with audience members and fans.

“We’re excited to bring a Nashville style of entertainment to the area,” O’Leary announced. “The combination of top-flight singer-songwriters, an intimate setting overlooking the Lake and state forest, represents a special opportunity for our guests – who will be able to enjoy a wonderful setting, interact with the artist, and enjoy one of the best settings on the coast.”

When asked how the Fish House has managed to evolve to offer so many unique entertainment experiences for guests, O’Leary replied, “As we’ve evolved and expanded people come to us with new ideas, other times we seek out people who offer what we think our guests would enjoy.”

For example, when Covid forced a local piano player Nate Sangsland to move back home from New Orleans, the Fish House made a deal to have him perform dueling pianos here. The pianos have been a popular hit on 30A ever since.

Nate Sangsland

Another fortuitous moment occurred last year from a chance meeting at a food show.

“We buy so much bluefin from Spain, our supplier offered to come to our restaurant so our community could experience a tuna cutting show, which is usually only seen in bigger cities,” he said. “We said yes, please. Come to 30A!”

As a result, the Fish House hosted the first-ever 30A Tuna Cutting Show, featuring two tuna-cutting masters and a 500-pound bluefin tuna; all flown in from Barcelona, Spain.  The show was a hit, with over 150 people seeing the monster tuna being prepared for delicious sushi.

“It was the type of entertainment we like to bring to 30A, something you don’t typically get to experience in our community,” O’Leary added.

The new concert series will kick off on March 22 with Craig Campbell, followed by Keith Stegall and Bradley Gaskin on March 29, Michael Morgan on April 5th, Charles Esten on April 12th, Leslie Satcher and Kevin Mac on April 19th, and Bryan White on May 3rd. Guests can experience different types of available packages and seating which can be purchased here.

When the O’Learys renovated the Old Florida Fish House, “family” was on top of mind for the business as well as the positive vibe of the restaurant, which you can feel when you immediately walk through its doors.

“We’ve been blessed with a unique property adjacent to a coastal dune lake, on a beautiful part of 30A that we get to share with our guests,” O’Leary said.

“We’re truly a family-owned and -operated business,” he explaied, proudly. “Our entire family is involved in making the Fish House a special place. Everyone helps in a variety of ways – Tammie focuses on our award-winning atmosphere, I do daily operations, and our kids manage some of the retail shops, wait tables, and make coffee drinks at nearby Beachy Bean.”

“And of course, none of this would be possible without our dedicated and loyal team,” he added with a proud smile.

For more information on the Lakeside Songwriters Concert Series or the Old Florida Fish House, visit their website.

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Gen Handley is a music writer living in Vancouver, BC where he can be found running its wet streets or trying its many restaurants with his wife and son.