Papa Surf’s Burger Bar: From Grayton Beach Romance to 30A's Newest Eatery - 30A



Papa Surf’s Burger Bar: From Grayton Beach Romance to 30A’s Newest Eatery

By: Carrie Honaker | Posted Jan 28, 2024

“If I get the chance, I’ll probably marry that girl.”

It could be a line from one of Brian Kelley’s songs, but it’s not. It’s part of his and his wife Brittney’s real-life love story and journey to making a home together in Grayton Beach, along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A.

They met in 2010 at a family Thanksgiving gathering, but the romance came later. Brian thought about Brittney over the next couple of years, wondering if they would ever find themselves single at the same time because he knew he would marry her. “She’s incredible,” said Brian. “She’s creative, she loves the outdoors, loves people, loves animals, and loves God.”

Fate intervened in the summer of 2013. Both single, they took their first trip to 30A together to get away from life’s busyness and have some alone time.

“That was my first time in Grayton Beach, my first time dropping the paddleboard in Western Lake,” said Brian. “We fell in love with each other, fell in love with the area, and it’s become a fixture in our life.”

Brittney grew up coming to Grayton. Raised by her grandmother who loves to surf fish, she cast lines up and down 30A during her childhood. Brian, a born-and-bred Florida boy from Ormond Beach, spent family vacations on Panama City Beach. The Panhandle held magic for both of them, and whenever they had a moment, they escaped to their oasis in Grayton Beach. “The state park hugging that area is so special,” said Brittney. “When you’re on the paddleboard on Western Lake, it feels like you could be anywhere in the world. It was the first place we said ‘I love you’ to each other.”

They married in December 2013, after a whirlwind courtship because Brian said, “She’s the rest of my life. I can’t wait to start it.” For the next couple of years, they would get off the road from touring and haul butt straight down to the Gulf Coast to stay at their favorite rental house with a pool right on the lake, room for their four dogs to roam, and space for their families. Everybody fell under Grayton’s spell.

“Lots of families and friends have a history of coming here every year,” said Brian. “It’s their spot, and it’s been passed on. It became that for us and our family.” In the face of spending 200+ days per year on the road touring, they knew they wanted to escape to 30A more to recharge and find inspiration, but they never thought it would be possible to live there full-time. In 2016, fate intervened again, and the perfect house presented itself.

“Everyone around us (us included) was like damn, y’all really made that work. We’re Florida residents now,” Brittney said. “Being near the water and in the water heals us. It’s therapy to be near the Gulf.”

Five years ago, they laid down more roots when they opened Tribe Kelley Surf Post in Downtown Grayton Beach. “As much as we love chillin’ down there, we also love working and creating,” said Brian. “It’s not just an R&R place for us—we love designing clothes, creating music, listening to records, scheming on other businesses, and we find ourselves really inspired in Grayton.”

That inspiration comes from their shared love of being outdoors, on the water, in the country, and in the woods. Beyond the Gulf Coast, they spend time at Brittney’s family farm in South Georgia. “It’s in the middle of nowhere,” said Brian. “We love going and just getting lost, doing a little bit of hunting and fishing.” They also count themselves lucky to be a part of the 30A community where there are natural springs, rivers, dune lakes, and neighbors that have embraced them. “We’re grateful to have a place down there, grateful for the support,” said Brian. “We love our community; there’s an undeniable energy here.”

And that surge of creative energy translates to Brian’s music. He penned the album Sunshine State of Mind as a love letter to Florida, the 30A area, and Brittney. Most of the album came to fruition in his studio above the Surf Post, and many of the songs started at their house overlooking the lake. Brian hinted he still has over 25 songs he hasn’t dropped that are inspired by this area, but that’s why Sunshine State of Mind is labeled Season One. He plans to record season two and maybe three, but for right now, “See You Next Summer” delivers plenty of sunshine and beach vibes. This single represents Brian sharing more of himself and what he loves.

“As an artist, as a creative, I didn’t want to put the same record out twice. I wanted to push myself. After ‘See You Next Summer,’ I’ve got some great country songs I’m really fired up about that are authentic to me, and I think they’ll resonate with other people as well,” Brian said.

Until those new songs hit the airwaves, the Kelleys are set to launch their next venture: Papa Surf’s Burger Bar.

Frequent drives along Scenic 30A took the Kelleys past an old house in need of some love. The property, located near Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar and across the street from Ed Walline Beach, had once lived as Bloom’s Cafe, which was also a private residence. Visitors to 30A that happened upon it were always in for a surprise—no menu ever existed. Whatever they prepared for the evening was what you ate, and it was consistently tasty. The Kelleys love old houses and projects, so they started to dream. But, even though it sat unoccupied, it wasn’t for sale.

After a couple of years of looking at it, fate intervened once again. “It was early in the pandemic, and we found ourselves riding it out in Florida,” said Brian. “We drove by, and there was a For Sale sign.”

According to Brittney, the Blooms didn’t want to sell to a developer that would tear down their beloved home and put up a condominium. They wanted somebody who would help keep the soul of Bloom’s Cafe alive in spirit. Brittney and Brian happily took on the challenge of renovating the place.

Papa Surf team: Thomas and Christine Glavine, Brian and Brittney Kelley, and Brittany and Jason Aldean

Brian added, “Before that, I did some scheming on the brand Papa Surf, but we weren’t sure if it would be a beer, a t-shirt company, or maybe a restaurant.” They got the logo designs back, purchased that old house, and decided the 30A area needed a good burger spot. The fire was lit for Papa Surf’s Burger Bar.

The next step involved Jason Aldean and Tom Glavine. Hanging out with the Aldeans at Chiringo, a popular Grayton Beach restaurant, after shooting the “Beach Cowboy” video, Brittney and Brian had a stroke of inspiration, bringing in their friends. “We felt like it’d be a lot of fun to do something with the Aldeans and Glavines who are like-minded when it comes to intentionality, design, and experiences,” Brian said.

Hitting on all cylinders, the menu started forming. The coastal Southern burger spot will serve elevated burgers, an elevated experience, with elevated designs, and a quick-to-go menu. Indoor and outdoor seating will be available, and the big Magnolia Bar in the backyard will provide the perfect spot to chill with your burgers and beer. The Kelleys tapped designer Courtney Bishop from Charleston to aid in all the details that make Papa Surf’s special.

“We loved her touch, combined with our eye for detail, on our personal home in Grayton Beach. So we asked her to collaborate on this project,” said Brittney. “She brings this flair that no one else has. Sometimes she uses antique pieces or sometimes brand-new pieces that look antique. It’s unique from the decor to the fabric.”

Little hidden details abound in the space that makes it feel like a home. And that’s what the Kelleys wanted, to make Papa Surf’s feel like you’re stepping into their world for a little while.

As our conversation closes, the Kelleys’ four dogs make themselves known. Smoke, Sage, Sunday, and Stone love Grayton Beach, where they like to get out and explore.

“When you’re driving out on the beach and it’s the golden hour, there’s bonfires, tikis, trucks, families, sometimes people having wedding after-party out there, and the sherbet skies from the sunset blaze,” Brian said. “Grayton is one of the wonders of the world.”

To learn more Papa Surf Burger Bar, visit their website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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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.