Vickie and Jeff Miller, seasoned franchise restaurant owners with decades of experience opening and operating lockstep concepts, wanted something of their own, a place where they could bring their vision of good food and good service to life.
In 2012 they realized that dream as they opened their first Perfect Pig in Seagrove Beach with a shoestring staff of five.
“We’ve been in the business for 45 years, but we always had chains. We never had our own concept, your one little restaurant that you dream up where the menu is up to you. In a chain you’re told what you serve and how you serve it,” said Vickie.
It started as word of mouth, but soon their dedication to buying the freshest seasonal ingredients and letting them speak for themselves spread. Three months in, they added dinner to their lunch and breakfast menu and the business boomed.
“It grew way faster than we ever anticipated. My husband Jeff, me, my daughter Shelby, her roommate, and Chef Jose, we did everything.”
“We washed dishes by hand in a three-compartment sink and cooked out of the tiniest kitchen you’ve ever seen in a restaurant. It amazes me still the food we put out of that space,” said Vickie.
The Perfect Pig in Seagrove Beach offers a slice of Southern French countryside with the flavors of the American South on Scenic Highway 30A. The vintage chandeliers mixed with rustic wine glass light fixtures, open wood shelving, chalkboard-adorned walls, and marble tables of varying shapes and sizes welcomed me on a recent Saturday night.
Our server Taras deftly led us through the menu starting with two hunky fried green tomatoes, battered lightly and topped with lump crab dressed in a bright citrus vinaigrette. The creamy goat cheese and crisp Nueske’s bacon provided perfect textural balance. Next up, an enormous salad built with a mound of lightly-dressed, peppery arugula, slivered almonds, and alternating ruby and golden beets. Every ingredient worked in harmony. We finished with two entrees on their core menu at each Perfect Pig location, the potato-crusted grouper, and the blackberry-sauced pork tenderloin medallions. The fish swam atop delicate vegetable risotto and the tender pork nestled on a mound of the creamiest gruyere grits I’ve ever put in my mouth. Full as ticks, we took home half our entrees (which made a great hash in the morning).
Though Seagrove came first, it wasn’t the last location. A sign on a vacant restaurant space at Gulf Place brought the second Perfect Pig in 2015, followed by a new build near the Publix in Watercolor Crossing in 2019.
All three locations feature a core menu of favorites like the pork and grouper, but the rest of the menu is up to the chef at each spot.
“As someone who loves to cook, I would feel very stifled if I prepared the same thing 365 days a year. So we change our menu seasonally, showcasing what’s fresh and locally available. And the chefs get to experiment with what they like to cook. It can be a very different dining experience, depending on which location you visit,” said Vickie.
And it doesn’t stop at the food. Seagrove has a French bistro feel, while Gulf Place has a baby grand piano, a fireplace, and dark wood accents. Watercolor Crossing features a gorgeous emerald green bar with brass accents and the cool modern luxury of leather banquettes and abstract art.
One thing doesn’t change though, the Millers continued commitment to being family-owned and operated. Any given day Vickie and Jeff can be spotted grabbing lunch at Seagrove or checking on tables at Watercolor Crossing or popping in at Gulf Place to have dinner while planning their newest venture, Shelby’s Beach Bar. Their daughter Shelby shuffles between locations ensuring day-to-day operations run smoothly and their daughter Courtney does all the payroll. Jose is still with them. And they’ve picked up more “adopted” family along the way.
“I’m very proud we have people that have been with us, like Jose, from day one. We have a manager at Gulf Place that started six months after we opened in 2015. We care about our employees or as we call it, our Perfect Pig family. We helped people go to culinary school. We love to promote from within instead of hiring from outside. The head chef at the coming Shelby’s Beach Bar started with us at 15-years-old,” said Vickie.
Each location offers a different dining experience, but the constant is the care taken with each customer who walks through the door.
“It’s such an intimate thing to feed people. I love to be in the restaurant and see people laughing, talking, enjoying the food—it just fills me up to see them making a memory.”