If you’re looking for the best grouper sandwich on 30A, you’ll find it at Seagrove Village Market Cafe where they serve up “Deep Fried Love” daily. Garden & Gun magazine named it one of the “100 Things You Must Eat Before You Die.”
Don’t take my word for it though, get over there and get one. The portion of fish staggers, the seasoning (I had it blackened) served up ample spice and the slaw on top refreshed my palate with tang and crunch.
The other thing about this historic spot is the friendly, homey vibe you get the moment you enter. The wooden benches with names scratched into them, the red and white checkered tablecloths, and the picnic tables outside bring to mind a comfortable backyard gathering with family and friends. And then there’s the video reel playing, telling the story of the restaurant mixed with photos submitted by families who’ve eaten at this iconic Seagrove Beach spot since 1949.
“The original Seagrove Village Market had the gas pump outside, and the first phone booth in the area. It was such an icon. We bought that business, and we both worked it and loved it. We built the business one happy customer at a time just loving on people, building relationships, having great products, and being a part of the community,” said Ann Hartley, who owns it with her husband George.
The menu hasn’t changed much in the last 60 years and that’s by design. George claims he bought the place in 1999 after visiting the area and having the fried shrimp po’boy. According to Manager Andrew Roberts, George said the shrimp was life-changing. It had to stay. The legendary burgers, the fried seafood baskets, and the addiction-worthy key lime pie still top customers’ favorite lists all these years later.
George and Ann made sure to get all the original recipes from Ernie when they bought Seagrove Village Market. Ernie gave a piece of advice as well. Cook everything fresh to order, and that’s the cornerstone of how the cafe operates today.
“If you order a hamburger, it’s going to take 15 minutes. We want customers to sit back and relax. You’re at the beach, you’re on vacation, get a cold beer and wait for the best burger in the area,” said Roberts.
For those who want something a little lighter, much of the seafood can be ordered grilled or blackened, and the ample Farmers Market Salad with edamame, beets, cucumbers, roasted corn, and feta cheese will satisfy any lunch craving. They even have a vegan burger available. And don’t forget the sides—the hushpuppies, collard greens, and coleslaw make any of the sandwiches, plates, or baskets an enviable Southern meal.
All of this goodness is done via counter service. Just step up, place your order with one of the extremely friendly cashiers and find a seat. Sodas and tea are self-serve, but servers and bussers navigate the dining room for beer, wine, and dessert orders. In fact, Roberts got his start as a busser back when he was 16 years old.
“I was a band kid in high school so I worked during spring and summer. Then I left for Florida State University, but I came back during Spring Break and in the summer. I just kept coming back. It’s one of those cliche things to say we’re like a family, but we all genuinely care for each other. If I need a piece of life advice, I can call George and it doesn’t feel awkward. It’s about the people here more than the place,” says Roberts.
Beyond food, the swag available is a choice and widely known as some of the best on 30A. Back when the Hartleys bought the place, basic groceries and sundries lined the shelves, but Ann added her own touch. “I designed t-shirts for the market and when Publix moved in, George and I realized people would buy their groceries from them. So, we morphed into a market that sold Seagrove Beach souvenirs, coffee mugs, and the shirts I designed,” says Ann.
Now people far and wide can get those Comfort Colors t-shirts they love. “We have a Shopify so if someone is back home in Arkansas or Tennessee, we can send their purchase straight to their door,” says Roberts.
At the end of the day though, it’s still all about that deep-fried love. Roberts elaborated, “Whether it’s your first visit or your 50th, we want you to feel like we’ve known you your entire lives—it’s just that southern hospitality. Hey, y’all, come on in, we got ice cold beer, the best grouper sandwich, and crispy french fries. People that come here year after year have watched me grow from a 16-year-old busser to where I am now. I try to treat every customer, even if they’ve never been here before like we’ve known each other for years like they’re home.”