If you pick up Scenic Highway 30A just east of Sandestin in Santa Rosa Beach, you won’t have to travel far to find one of the locals’ favorites. Occupying a corner opposite Gulf Place is the breezy, open-air, double-decker eatery known as Shunk Gulley. Famed for their duck fat Gulley fries and the freshest seafood pulled straight from the gulf, Shunk Gulley has quickly become a community fixture since opening its doors in 2017.
“[We] originally wanted to open a local watering hole or neighborhood bar that would act as a community central gathering spot where neighbors could meet neighbors. With this vision, we ended up creating a really cool restaurant our guests have fallen in love with. The vision behind Shunk Gulley always had the goal of aesthetically softening the concrete condo look and feel of the 393/30A intersection,” said local owner and builder Thomas Gallion. “We love the outdoor Florida living aspect of our region, so that was a focus of ours with the open-air concept and covered porches. Shunk Gulley’s casual, laid-back atmosphere was designed for good times, great food and plenty of friends with a focus on providing live music seven days a week.”
Shunk Gulley’s unusual name didn’t happen by accident; in fact, it was inspired by the underwater topography of the area. A hard-to-find historic fishing reef off the coast directly to the south in the Gulf of Mexico, this “shunk gulley” was a point of navigation for boaters long before anyone knew the term “GPS.” The intersection of Highway 393 and 30A served as a landmark for boaters and fishermen searching for the reef. In fact, Shunk Gulley takes its name so seriously it has teamed up with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association to bring back active fisheries in the gulf and help build a more diverse ecosystem.
A restaurant that lives by the words “Fresh, Local, Family, Friendly, Community,” the ownership and staff pride themselves on the wonderful views, and live coastal musicians they’ve become known for. But, let’s not forget the fresh seafood. Chef Tyler McMahan’s goal has always been to educate guests on the seafood the gulf provides and to be creative with fresh local ingredients.
“From our variety of fresh fish options to our oysters and shrimp, we take pride in offering the freshest seafood to our guests. One of our long-standing favorites has been the duck fat Gulley fries. Another fan-favorite entree of ours has always been the Summer Grouper. Both are an absolute must-try!,” he said. “A new menu item that has been a hit is our Quinoa salad. It pairs perfectly with a scoop of tuna dip and day at the beach.
“Filet mignon was a menu item of ours that was not a top seller; seafood is king and most of our guests go for our grouper sandwich or crab claws instead. The broiled spiny lobster tail has always been a huge hit, we are known for our oysters and our yellowfin tuna dip is award-winning.”
Great food, open-air dining, gulf views and atmosphere converge at Shunk Gulley, a place that, according to marketing manager Kendra Marasa, works hard to be thought of as the perfect spot for locals and visitors alike to make great memories and new friends along the way.
Despite 2020’s hurdles, Marasa said there are big things on the horizon for the eatery, including an expansion plan that will more than double the restaurant’s capacity and continued involvement in community projects and support of local businesses. Shunk Gulley carries 30A Coastal Dune wines, which supports a variety of local charities including Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance Dunes in Schools program, Underwater Museum of Art, Alaqua Animal Refuge and the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. They also carry local brands like Oyster City, Grayton Beer, and vodkas from Sea Level, Walton and Distillery 98.
But, it’s that “Shunk Juice” that most people can’t get enough of. We couldn’t get them to give us the recipe (the full recipe is “top secret”), but it’s a refreshing blend of Meyers rum, Blue Chair Bay Banana rum, pineapple and orange juices, and a splash of grenadine … with a Cruzan 137 floater to keep things exciting, Marasa explained.
Grab a half-gallon of it to go or any of Shunk Gulley’s other fun cocktails their bar manager, Adam Sims, changes up regularly and turn up the fun any day at the beach (or at home).
“The Shunk Gulley ‘flavor’ is really creating a custom experience for each guest and having each one leave our restaurant feeling like family,” Marasa said. “We know people have choices, which is why we’re especially thrilled when they choose to come back to Shunk Gulley again and again.”
Learn more about Shunk Gulley, explore their menu or view the upcoming live music lineup by visiting shunkgulley.com.