Who is Bud and Alley?
South Walton's Oldest Restaurant & Favorite Gathering Spot
By Lynn NesmithTwenty-five years and counting, Seaside’s beloved restaurant and beach-front bar are still making waves.
Certain places draw us back time and again. We come to rest and rejuvenate, to create memories with family and friends, to slow the march of time – or simply to have a little fun. Seaside is one of those places.
Granted the white sandy beach and turquoise waters of the Gulf deserve the lion’s share of the credit. But surely another major draw is Bud & Alley’s, the town’s oldest restaurant and favorite gathering spot. Depending on your appetite, mood or mode of dress, Bud & Alley’s strikes the perfect middle ground between fine dining and simply having a fine time hanging out. But Bud & Alley’s is much more than a restaurant or beach bar. It’s a beloved institution that over the years has helped make Seaside what it is today.
It’s amazing that a restaurant founded by a couple of 24-year-old surfing buddies and named for a cat and dog in a town with only twelve houses would establish an enduring legacy and a formula for lasting success. Yet from the beginning Bud & Alley’s hit the right chord at the right time and has maintained an intensely faithful following ever since. (Not to mention being listed as one of the top 20 restaurants in Florida by Florida Trend Magazine’s critic, Robert Tolf.)
“Back then Seaside was really in the middle of nowhere,” recalls owner Dave Rauschkolb. The fledging community was, however, on the way to a favorite surf spot along Panama City Beach, when Scott Witcoski asked Dave to stop in to see town founder Robert Davis who was looking to open a restaurant. Scott was already an accomplished chef and seasoned restaurateur at 24. His father, Tally was an owner of a restaurant in Destin called Les Saisons where Scott honed his culinary and management skills. Dave, worked his way towards a marketing and management degree in college waiting tables and bartending. He found his destiny when Tally and Scott hired him to be a server. With their combined experience and friendship the pair found themselves opening their own restaurant in Seaside. Everything was coming together except a name.
In the early days, Dave oversaw the front of the house and Scott served as the founding chef. After almost 20 years as the creative culinary force, Scott opted to spend more time pursuing art and photography, as well as fishing and surfing, and sold his interests to his long-time partner, who took over the reins and continues to strike middle ground between serious kitchen and casual gulf-front setting. Bud & Alley's renditions of panhandle classics paired with our own personal take on classic Southern cuisine express Seaside to a T. If you’ve sat on the beach on a warm spring day watching fisherman just off shore in search of cobia and later spot it on the menu with our confident mix of pure ingredients and clean flavors – jump on it. It’s sure to be a dish to remember.
Ready for the next culinary exploration, Dave branched out in 2007 opened an authentic Taco Bar. Two years later the popular Pizza Bar overlooking the Gulf opened to rave reviews. “Although celebrity chefs are opening second restaurants in hot-spots like Las Vegas and other far flung destinations,” Dave says, “I decided right next door to Bud & Alley’s along 30A was a better location than the strip in Vegas.” laughs Dave.
The fish tacos were an immediate hit, not to mention the bar’s offering of close to 50 tequilas and signature margaritas. “Knock the sand off your feet and wash down a spicy taco with a cold cervazas. What’s better than that?” asks Dave.
Some might argue there’s some pretty tough competition just around the corner and up the stairs at Bud & Alley’s own Rooftop Bar and recently expanded Sky Deck, a classic waterfront bar overlooking what has to be the most beautiful stretches of beach in the world. Tourist and locals are likely to pop in after a swim in the gulf for a cocktail – it doesn’t matter the time of day or if one’s bathing suit is still wet. Others show up after dark sporting a colorful sundress or white linen. There’s something for everyone. That’s the beauty of Bud & Alley’s.
And few would disagree that the Rooftop Bar is “the place” to be when the sun dips below the horizon. “The sunsets along our coast are so beautiful, I felt they deserved to be celebrated,” says Dave. A cast-iron bell from an 1888 steam train is rung each day to honor the sunset. It wasn’t long before the ritual quickly became a beloved Seaside tradition.
And over the years a lot has changed along 30-A. With all these changes it’s hardly surprising that people ask Dave about the future of the restaurant. “Robert Davis has assured me that Bud & Alley’s will be in Seaside for many years to come,” says Dave.
So count on Dave to make sure things remain constant around Bud & Alley’s, from fresh local seafood to ice-cold cocktails to the friendly atmosphere to tee shirts with the original logo of a cat and a dog. “Our motto from day one has been Good Food, Good People, Good Times” Dave proudly states, “And it still rings true 25 years later.”