One of my high school friends frequently travels to the UK for an annual pub crawl (or at least by the looks of her Facebook pics, it’s pretty often.) The closest that I can relate to this is my comparison of grits at restaurants along Florida’s 30A beach highway.
Now you need to know something-any southerner worth their raising has strong opinions about the preparation and presentation of grits. I will go ahead and right now exclude anyone (and that means you too, Aunt Paula) who thinks that grits should be eaten with sugar or anything that resembles sugar (honey, brown sugar, Karo syrup, etc.). My favorite aunt tried to convince me once that my mama liked her grits that way.
No ma’am. That just ain’t true.
My mama looked at her sister like she had 2 heads when I told her what she said about her liking grits sweet. Who do you think I got my grits raising from? I just recently finished reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd where the heroine of the story was made to kneel on the floor spread with dry grits as punishment.
What a waste of good great food.
Anyhoo-back to the here and now with my recommendations for the best grits on 30A in case you are ever down in this neck of the woods.
I am a foodie. I love to grow, shop for, handle, clean, prepare, cook and eat food. Great food. Especially the food of my southern heritage, of which there is no equal. So that’s where I’m coming from—love and appreciation of distinctly southern staples. Every southern hostess worth her grits knows how to take instant grits out of a cardboard tube and with a little cheddar cheese, garlic powder and Tabasco make a culinary hit worthy of any bridal luncheon/special occasion.
First off, I like any texture of grits except super soupy. I like them from a slightly runny consistency to stiff enough to cut with a knife…so to me, taste is the determiner of greatness.
This is my list of the top places to get great grits down in Florida while you are on vacation, some are served only at breakfast, some only for dinner and some all day-so plan accordingly. I have them listed in the order in which I love them least (which is still great) to the best grits I have eaten in my 50+ years on this planet.
#4 Cowgirl Kitchen in Rosemary Beach. I like this place overall, mostly because I have an obsession with Rosemary Beach. They are listed on the menu as just “Cheese Grits”. These grits have Monterey Jack cheese and green chilies added to the goodness. They have a creamy style consistency and the cheese is not too overpowering. The chilies are a bonus, yet don’t add too much heat if that would bother you. I like them, but wouldn’t make a special trip just to get them. My sisters and I biked there one morning last fall and split grits and the pecan french toast. Then we biked an hour to work it off.
#3 The Summer Kitchen Café in Rosemary Beach– This little place serves traditional, southern grits done perfect. It’s the gold standard for the grits my mama and daddy were raised on. When a southerner thinks grits-this is them. End of story. If you are new to the world of grits, you should start here because there is nothing like tried and true and that’s just what these grits are. Oh baby. All that and Rosemary Beach too.
#2 Great Southern in Seaside- This place has uppity atmosphere and uppity grits. They are served as a side dish choice along with fried green tomatoes, Ma’s collard greens, fried okra and hush puppies. I’m sorry, you just can’t get more southern than those things. And you can’t go wrong ordering them. The grits at this trendy spot in Seaside are made with coarse yellow grits (don’t you dare say the word polenta to me) and have the addition of smoked Gouda cheese. OMG. Just kill me. They have a stiff texture so you can just slowly pick apart small bites to savor. Alongside the blackened grouper-it screams “YOU ARE AT THE BEACH!!” These grits are a force to be reckoned with, but still not the best.
See how Southern this place is? They had me at gouda cheese grits. Where is gouda? Alabama or Georgia? I can’t remember.
# 1 Market Café in Seagrove. Here it is folks. The.Best.Grits. (you can buy) On.30A. Take off your shoes – this is holy ground. These grits are the kind where you see people actually holding the plate up their face, licking off every blessed grit. When I had them a year ago for the first time, after the first bite my sisters and I put our forks down and were speechless. Perfection was in our midst. It was almost too much to handle. We had our waitress go back to the kitchen and beg on our behalf for the chef god to come to our table so we could heap praise upon him, so great was our love for these new-found grits. He told us that his secret was mozzarella cheese, but we know he was lying cause we have all tried to duplicate it and we can’t even get close. Just one minor detail-do you remember the Seinfeld episode with the soup Nazi, “No soup for you!” Well, the chef at Market Café is the grits Nazi. He only allows the grits to be served with the BBQ shrimp entrée. No amount of begging or threatening a revolt will change his mind. What a shame. What a marketing mistake.
This is just amazing.
What a waste of a good great thing. He’s probably just wanting to insure left overs for the fam. Whatever. I’m over it. Really. No bitterness here.
Don’t be put off by the fact that the beer and wine list is on the side of the table napkin holder-there is greatness here, folks. Just ask Sheryl Crowe who we saw here last year with her family. You are not too cool to eat here.
There you have it…the best of the best of 30A grits. It’s worthy of a crawl.