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Chef Jim Shirley, a Pensacola Celebrity Chef and South Walton resident is expanding his restaurant empire with the addition of The Bay opening today at 5 p.m. in South Walton. Located in the former local haunt once known to many as Sea Bar, the restaurant is nestled at the waters edge and overlooks the Choctawhatchee Bay east of Highway 331 bridge, south.


Shirley’s first chef owned restaurant, Madison’s Diner opened in Pensacola in 1995, followed by the (Mexi-Dixie) Screaming Coyote on Palafox Street in 1997, and then The Fish House on Pensacola Bay in 1998. Living part-time in Pensacola and a stones throw from Seaside raising our family in South Walton’s Old Seagrove for many years, we were excited to see Jim Shirley bring Great Southern Cafe to the former Shades Bar & Grill space in Seaside’s Central Square, a wildly popular 30A restaurant. In 2010 after starting his family with partner Kelli, The Meltdown on 30A– a grilled cheese food truck on Airstream row emerged to rave reviews of adults and little ones everywhere.


Though known for his modern Southern cooking interpretations and his famed Gulf Shrimp & Grits-A Ya-Ya he most recently prepared on Emeril’s Florida, Shirley is ready to mix things up again at The Bay and will be pulling from his knowledge learned while growing up traveling the world as the son of a Navy pilot, saying, “”The menu will have offerings of fresh sushi, small tapas plates and some new and innovative Asian inspired dishes.”



Dining is provided outside on the covered deck with open concept cocktail bar and expansive bay views, inside the light and airy space with seating for two hundred, or at the 55-foot specialty bar where beloved local sushi chef Jamison Hendler will be honing her craft using the highest quality ingredients. Special cheese plate presentations and the option for private indoor dining will also be available.


Sporting enthusiasts will want to paddle board or kayak up to the beach for a refreshing drink and bite to eat, while small watercraft can dock at the on site pier. General Manager Mario McNally is excited about the new venture and thinks it will quickly be known as the” local’s place” to enjoy live music, a Mojito and a day by the bay. This weekend will highlight several musical guests with Max McCann Band kicking off tonight at 9 p.m, followed by Duck Phat, Bokou Groove, Alvin Ford, Jr. & the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on Saturday and Sunday.


With Emerald Coast waterways being a big draw for tourism and nothing else like this restaurant concept in South Walton, The Bay is certainly on the right course to becoming one of the areas top Gulf Coast Restaurants for years to come.

For more information follow The Bay on Facebook.


Photos provided by The Bay


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