The Redneck Riviera: A Delicious Surprise

Forget spring break excess; try the frogs' legs meunière and the rainbow cake

The movie The Truman Show was filmed in Seaside, Fla. in the Redneck Riviera.

Dave Rauschkolb was another of 30A’s early food pioneers. His three restaurants occupy oceanfront property in Seaside. One is Bud & Alley’s, a ramshackle white-clapboard joint that wouldn’t look out of place on Nantucket, and the other, right across a small courtyard, is Bud & Alley’s Taco Bar, an eight-stool open kitchen with cheap and tasty fried grouper tacos and excellent guacamole. For Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar, Rauschkolb went to Italy and studied the methods of the masters. He came home, installed an enormous wood-burning oven on his restaurant compound, and now turns out way, way above average authentic pies.

Rauschkolb has been here for more than 25 years; back then, there were only five restaurants on 30A and no stop signs. In 1985, he was on his way to catch a big wave (Rauschkolb was an avid surfer and, at 50, remains so today) when he got a call from Davis about an opportunity to open a business in Seaside, which was then all of 12 houses strong. Rauschkolb, who had dabbled in the bar business in Destin, jumped at the chance.

"We had a real say in how the town was made," Rauschkolb recalls. "We were able to have an influence on how to preserve the character of the road, the signage laws, the state parks, and then we got to be pioneers in the food down here. Nobody even knew what arugula was when we first opened. Everything was fried food or a couple of fancy French places in Destin."

Downtown Seaside has expanded over the years. Photo: Kelly Alexander

In those days, Rauschkolb had to personally truck ice to Bud & Alley’s from Destin — and hope it didn’t melt along the way. His concept was a restaurant that served what he terms, simply, "coastal cuisine," and to this day, the best thing on the menu is his signature barbecue shrimp, a heady stew of sweet pink Gulf crustaceans redolent of rosemary and garlic.

"The Redneck Riviera name was maybe true for the first 10 years," said Rauschkolb. "Not anymore. You don’t survive on 30A unless you’re great."

But can a community that’s barely 20 years old really have authentic cuisine? That is the question.