Watersound Village Market: Where Culinary Passion Meets Coastal Charm - 30A


Watersound Village Market: Where Culinary Passion Meets Coastal Charm

By: Carrie Honaker | Posted Oct 29, 2023

It’s spooky season—specifically, Friday the 13th—and The Hartleys have embarked on their latest caper, Watersound Village Market.

George and Ann Hartley were done with opening restaurants until St. Joe Company came knocking five years ago and offered up a beautifully sited plot of land. The serial entrepreneurs couldn’t say no. “It was just dirt and a plan. I looked at Watersound and saw Seagrove 20 years ago. I said yes,” said George. 

George says that if Seagrove Village MarketCafe and Surfing Deer had a love child, it would be Watersound Village Market.

The graceful building has ample green space surrounding it, and as you walk through the grand doors, it feels like a cozy European cafe. A buzzy crowd already fills the red leather booths. The indoor/outdoor bar is flush with bartenders shaking cocktails. The exposed brick walls, rustic candle chandeliers, rattan chairs, and checkerboard tile moments all add to the charm, making the space feel cozy.

“It takes all the best from each of our restaurants and adds in the Deep Fried Love,” said George.

We settle at a table on the porch and George orders the fried shrimp poboy, the sandwich that started his and Ann’s 30A adventures. It arrives chocked full of lightly breaded fried shrimp, tangy slaw, and bread that has that balance of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. When they bought Seagrove Village Market, he was told the secret was to buy everything fresh, cook it to order, and serve it with a smile. They’ve held to that since 1999.

I took his recommendation and ordered the Thai Beef Noodle Salad. The ample bowl is filled with a zingy heat that lights up your tongue in the right ways. The beef melts in my mouth—it’s that tender. Hunks of bright green avocado rest on the perfectly cooked noodles and a bed of fresh spring greens. It is a cornucopia of flavors, all melding perfectly.

We share his pile of hand-cut fries which he orders with zesty ranch, his invention. He added, “Ranch wasn’t good enough so I added cheese, jalapenos, and a bit of cayenne. It’s the perfect sauce for dipping fries.”

You’ll recognize the classic Seagrove Village Market green fabric and candy-cane stripes sprinkled around the restaurant, and the screened-in porch emulates the beloved one at the original but on a much grander scale and overlooking the Watersound bridge. But the centerpiece is the large-scale mural of Seagrove Village Market Cafe, an actual swath of wallpaper printed from the original painting still hanging at the restaurant.

The tables are covered in laminated newsprint depicting clips from actual stories about Seagrove Village Market and Surfing Deer over the years. George points out some of the early articles when longtime customers begin dropping by the table. They know him, they know the secret handshake. He hugs their necks, still connected to the community where he and Ann started their businesses over two decades ago.

You’ll recognize some of the favorites from their other restaurants (hello Surfing Deer crabcakes and Seagrove Village Market seafood tacos), but some new additions join the menu at Watersound Village Market. Wanderlust drew the Hartleys all around the globe and the menu reflects some of their great adventures. The San Miguel Bowl was inspired by time spent in Mexico, and the Hot Tangy Fish on Asian slaw comes from weekend trips Ann took with girlfriends to spas in Texas.

Coming soon is a frisbee golf course and corn hole setup, but for now there are the famous grouper sandwiches, banana cream cheesecake, and a hefty dose of Hartley’s “deep-fried love.” Check them out Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. just off Highway 98 on Watersound Boulevard—one short turn down a sculpture-lined street from 30A.

For more info, visit Watersound Village Market 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.