Seagrove Village Market Café Is A Happy Beach Tradition
August 13, 2014 by Manny Chavez
When George and Ann Hartley bought the Seagrove Village Market Café in July 1999, they knew they were buying a piece of history and pledged to maintain the Seagrove tradition that has kept hungry beach lovers coming back year after year.
“Back in the early days, the market not only offered up great fried food and burgers, but also served as the grocery store for the community,” says Ann.
Today, the emphasis has changed from the grocery aspect to the still sought-after meals and an expanded souvenir department which includes a large number of cool, colorful t-shirts and all things Seagrove.
“When we took over in 1999, lunches were being prepared on a tiny electric fryer and char grill," says George. "We revamped the kitchen bringing in gas cooking to the delight of our chef, Sunny. We got ovens and burners…basically turning it into a real kitchen. He’s still with us and was actually already in place when we arrived.”
Asked why the fried food menu items taste so darn good, George explains, "of course we start off with fresh fish, shrimp, and oysters - but the secret is in the batter. A condition of our purchasing this place was that the batter recipe be included in the sale. The batter ingredients and the actual sequence of mixing these ingredients is the key to our unique ‘deep fried love’ taste.”
The Hartley’s insist on “buying it fresh, cooking it to order, and serving it with a smile.”
Although the fried items are a favorite (grouper sandwich is #1) among customers, the menu has expanded over the years to include la cocina and crab cake salads, senora Anna’s fish tacos, veggie burgers, and grilled fish and chicken. On the end run is the delicious key lime pie.
In September of the first year of the Hartley’s new business venture, the Wheelhouse Restaurant closed for three weeks to do some necessary repairs.
“That was the time we chose to be open for dinner,” remembers George. "Prior to that we served only lunch.”
To this day, the café is open for lunch and dinner 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day but Sunday when it is open for lunch only from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
When the Hartleys first took possession of the Seagrove Village Market Café, they discovered a variety of hidden treasures including an old cookbook published in 1977 by Junie McGee.
“The cookbook was a real blast from the past,” says Ann. “We decided to re-publish the collection of more than 400 recipes.”
The collection of vintage recipes can be purchased at the market or online at www.seagrovevillagemarket.com.
Looking to the future, George and Ann know that progress will eventually claim the Seagrove Village Market Café location. The intent is to keep the vibe and the good food going, just in another spot nearby.
“We will do our best to emulate this building so that when you walk in you will feel like you are in THIS building,” says Ann. “This place has great juju and we are dedicated to keeping the vibe.”
George and Ann both want the market to continue to be the place to meet, greet, eat, and be comfortable doing it in your flip flops and bathing suit.
"We have witnessed multiple generations of families whose GRANDPARENTS came here as children," says George. "We’re looking forward to watching and experiencing this scene as it morphs into the future…deep fried love...always a good thing, right here in little ol’ Seagrove Beach!"