George’s at Alys Beach
30 Castle Harbour Drive, Alys Beach, 850-641-0017 map

I finally ate at George’s at Alys Beach, the second restaurant venture for local residents George and Ann Hartley, owners of the South Walton landmark Seagrove Village Market at the intersection of Hwy 395 and Scenic 30A in Seagrove Beach. George’s the “topic” has sprung up in sooooo many of my conversations of late so I just had to go and see what all the fuss is about and met a friend for lunch there yesterday.

The much anticipated restaurant finally opened it’s doors on July 21st but the media buzz surrounding George’s started back in March. Why? The Florida cottage-style building itself used to sit next to the Seagrove Village Market on Hwy 395. Yes, for those in the know, it used to house the beloved and quaint Sandor’s restaurant and the Hartleys had it uprooted and moved down Scenic 30A to it’s current location in Alys Beach.

So, how was my experience? Right out of the chute I will give the Hartleys a 10 for the execution of the brand they are creating at George’s. The renovations made to the building are excellent – the ambiance is 100% “feel good” and exudes that elusive cool-factor. The restaurant seats 60 – 20 inside and 40 on the screened in porch. I have no doubt that attention to detail in absolutely every facet of the Georgesdesign was taken into consideration and I also suspect nothing went overlooked as it’s absolutely seamless in this regard, from the chalkboards to the color schemes to the catchy toad (yes, toad as in frog) theme to the plates to the graphic design to the furniture to the music and on and on. Great job Ann and George!

 So what is up with this toad theme? As I found out by reading “The Frog Story” on the back of the menu, it’s not a reflection of the cuisine you will find at George’s or a nod to something about the wildlife in South Walton but a personal story the Hartley’s have about linen towels embroidered with leaping frogs they received as a wedding present 25 years ago. Sounds like those towels prompted a lesson (maybe the first?) in Marriage Compromise 101. How it inspired a restaurant only they know but it is a cute story and adds character to the whole shebang.

I would describe the menu as eclectic Southern-influenced American cuisine. What the h*** does that mean? Well, they offer everything from fried seafood baskets ($13-$15) and 1/2 lb. cheeseburgers with fries ($9) to healthy wraps ($9), spa-inspired items such as grilled tofu on veggie soba noodles ($12) and “Senora Anna’s Fish Tacos” ($11). I really like how they have approached the presentation of their menu – another well thought out detail – by dividing the menu items into “misbehave” and “behave” categories. Again, pretty cute and definitely memorable.

For my lunch, although I really really wanted to misbehave with a greasy cheeseburger with all the fixins and a hot, heaping pile of fries with ketchup, I chose to be a good girl and ordered the Curry Chicken Salad ($12) from the behave category. Mixed with dried fruits, nuts and celery, 2 modest ice cream scoop-sized balls of chicken salad were served on a little bed of organic greens which were tossed with a vinaigrette. It was delicious – full of chicken with a subtle sweetness from the fruit, creamy mouth-feel from the mayo, crunch from the celery and a mild curry flavor…it’s a combination I absolutely adore. It was served with a side of an orzo pasta with balsamic dressing that was also tasty although under-seasoned – something I noticed in a few of the items. And yes, I felt like I had behaved after my meal.

 My boys wanted lunch so I ordered a Pollo Fajita Wrap ($9) and a cheeseburger – cooked “medium” – to go. I am sorry to say the cheeseburger was burned on the outside and over-cooked to the point that the meat was actually hard. If I were at the restaurant, it would’ve gone right back to the kitchen but, a to go order, the foul wasn’t discovered until I was at home so my disappointed son ate a ham sandwich instead. We had a happy camper with the Pollo Fajita Wrap – wood grilled chicken, onions, cheese, brown rice, ranch dressing and greens wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla served with a side of roasted red potato salad. The wrap was substantial and the ingredients were fresh. It, also, was not seasoned but a bit of salt and pepper was an easy fix. The roasted red potato salad lacked depth and it, too, had no seasoning – where’s the salt and pepper, guys?

All in all, I think there are some hits and misses with the menu but we must remember it’s a new joint and, no doubt, these things will work themselves out I am sure. If Seagrove Village Market is any indication of things to come, George’s will quickly become a South Walton favorite as well. Ann and George have a great thing going and I look forward to going back to sample more from the menu. As always, I will chronicle my experiences here when I do.

Reviewed by Jill Gaupin

Jill is die-hard foodie and a big part of her life revolves around eating, cooking, and drinking wine…oh, and talking about eating, cooking and drinking wine, too.