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Summer's Better at The Bay

June 16, 2017 by Audrey Johnson

The Bay is a casual waterfront restaurant and bar that has earned a reputation for serving some of the best grub in South Walton.

But the hot spot’s namesake is what brought us there in the first place - the majestic Choctawhatchee (chock-tuh-hatch-ee) Bay of South Walton. This summer it’s time to get back to basics and soak up what The Bay does best: beach, beer and buddies. 

The bayfront joint seems like your typical award-winning spot with great food and attentive service. But underneath the surface, owner-chef Jim Shirley has created a community gathering place where locals go to spend time with friends and family on the shore. The games are fun, the beer is cold and the music is live.

People flock to the bay for the beach, and boaters seeking sustenance can make themselves at home on the long dock that stretches out over the water. In addition to the indoor seating, there's a back porch, a sandy beach, and a courtyard with twinkling Italian lights strung between the live oaks overhead. The Bay does not accept reservations, but the courtyard can be reserved for private events.

Tonka trucks and dig toys await kiddos on the beach and shallow water and swimwear is recommended. Challenge a friend to a game of cornhole. Get half off wine by the glass and cocktails, and a dollar off beer daily during Happy Hour from 4-6. Enjoy live music during the Wednesday night bonfire and Sunday Pickin-right after Sunday Brunch.

Chef Jim is adding some instant classics to the menu this summer. Handmade pork rinds hearken back to childhood summer bike rides to the store, only these come with four dipping sauces that range from spicy to meaty. Cheese curds, too, come with a spicy aioli, perfect for popping between sips of one of their seasonal craft beers on tap.

On the lighter side of things, fresh spring greens are topped with Goat cheese, candied pecans, tomato, carrot, fried shallots, cucumbers and blackened shrimp and tossed in a lemon- thyme vinaigrette. The salad comes in a portion so huge you could pick at it all day.

Crab Cakes come with more lump crab meat than breading, and they’re served atop fried zucchini medallions and finished with sake buerre blanc. And resistance is futile when it comes to fried fish tacos – especially ones loaded into corn tortillas along with cilantro, onions, corn-tomato-green chili relish, and served with charred onion-white beans and avocado.

The Bay is where the locals go to enjoy what life in South Walton is all about: cold beer, great food and spending time with friends and family on the water. Life doesn’t get much sweeter.

The Bay is located at the southern foot of the 331 Bridge on the Choctawhatchee Bay. They’re open daily for lunch and dinner, happy hour and Sunday Brunch. Visit www.baysouthwalton.com for menus and more. Stay tuned to Facebook for specials and live music lineups. 

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Audrey Johnson

Upon realizing that life is too short not to follow her dreams, Audrey moved to the beach and became a writer. SoWal’s pristine beaches inspire her to explore further, look deeper, and do better.

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