Tucked behind the Shops at Grayton Beach sits a 900-square-foot supper club serving inventive globally-inspired cuisine to adventurous diners. But first, they have to find it.
Cusping its 10th anniversary, Roux 30A is the brainchild of Chef Nikhil Abuvala, who bootstrapped with little to no capital, only a server, dishwasher, and himself as staff through private events until he could afford to open it as a regular dining space.
The 44-seat dining room now delivers immersive culinary experiences through its rotating Snack Hour, 6-course Tasting Menu, and Around the World dinner series.
Abuvala and his team are redefining the food scene on 30A through inventive twists like the courses at his Diwali 2022 dinner which blended traditional American Southern dishes with iconic foods of India. The Lamb Frito Pie, an ode to Texas, layered a version of chana masala with 14-hour braised lamb, and crunchy Fritos. And dessert was no slouch as Abuvala served up Gulab Jamun, one of the most popular desserts of India. Tender milk donuts soaked in anise, and cardamom syrup for six hours, then served with chai whipped cream was chef’s kiss.
“I’ve been to 30 countries across the world and it’s always a food exploration—that’s where the Around the World Series was born. It was our first dinner series and it just kept getting busier and busier,” said Abuvala.
2020 redefined Roux 30A as restaurants shut down and the pandemic raged. Abuvala reflected on his operation and found that 76% of his diners previous to that year were coming for the tasting menu. When they reopened on May 8, Abuvala leaned into that and hasn’t looked back. In January 2022 he added the Snack Hour where patrons can grab light bites or opt for Chef’s 3-course tasting with selections from the dinner menu.
Three long communal tables accented with a medley of mix-and-match chairs dominate the dining room with full views of the open kitchen. Piles of gently used cookbooks populate the window sills and shelves. Largescale abstract art pieces anchor the walls, and pot racks fashioned into whimsical chandeliers replete with hanging cutlery add visual interest to the cozy space.
Decor varies depending on the meal, but for the Diwali dinner a collection of flora bursting with ferns, willows, and dried florals hung from the center of the room, upside-down orange carnation bouquets descended from the ceiling while garlands of bright yellow, orange, and pink provided pops of color for the Festival of Lights celebration.
Conversations erupted throughout the diminutive space as bubbles were poured to welcome everybody. Diners who were strangers before this night introduced themselves, getting to know one another before embarking on the feast. Abuvala bounced around laughing with guests between checking on the kitchen flow. Everything felt organic yet orchestrated.
No matter if you come for an Around the World dinner, a Snack Hour, or the Chef’s Tasting Menu, the food is impressive in its breadth and freshness. Because of Roux’s size, Abuvala embraces small producers. “We lean heavily on our farm collective JV Foods—they’ve got farms all over Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama and most are less than 20 acres. We get really beautiful produce and we let that drive the menu along with the bounty of fresh Gulf fish,” says Abuvala.
Diners looking for meatier options won’t be disappointed. The Louisiana Wagyu Hangar Steak melts in your mouth, and the chicken from Defuniak Springs is plump and tender. But vegetarians shouldn’t fear, the menu is flexible enough to accommodate. Abuvala elaborated, “We change our menu so often that we always have something for people with severe food restrictions or allergies. And we can easily cook for a vegan or vegetarian. We always have shellfish, and pasta we make fresh daily.”
Adherence to small producers extends to the wine list and pairing options. Abuvala credits some of the creativity to Chef de Cuisine John Engle who spends more time on the ground with wine reps looking at options. Abuvala adds, “He’s bringing in all these really cool, beautiful natural wines from smaller wineries. With Roux, we don’t mind if we have something that only has a limited run. We can take 15 cases because we modify our wine list about every three weeks—it’s constantly evolving as we try things out. We don’t want the bottles you can get everywhere.”
Beyond the dining experiences at Roux 30A, there’s a new offering gaining popularity, the First Sundays Cooking Series. Chef Engle guides participants through classic French dishes, preparing winter vegetables, making pasta, and more. Classes last approximately three hours and happen on the first Sunday of each month.
An expansion with a wine bar, more seats, and another bathroom are on the horizon for Roux 30A, but for now, there’s wildly creative food prepared simply that lets the ingredients shine, loyalty to small producers, and a wine paring option that tastes like it was bottled to go with each course.