The Food Trailers of Seaside, FloridaExploring the Food Truck scene in Florida's preeminent planned community, Seaside.
A little after noon along Florida’s two-lane coastal Highway 30-A, a crowd of beach-goers floods the crosswalks leading from the beach to the small village of Seaside. The bulk of this sandaled exodus will end up at a cluster of aluminum Airstream trailers nestled around the post office in the town’s central square. These Airstreams, with their eclectic decorations and chalkboard-menus touting wholesome organic foodstuffs are the new culinary cutting-edge in this planned community* (and I do mean planned: Seaside provided the backdrop for The Truman Show).
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Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs
Wild Bill’s is Northwest Florida’s gift to the hot dog. I’ve always been a fan of anyone who ventures a new take on classics like the hot dog (see Frank) or its slightly more robust cousin, the hamburger (see Chez Victor). After all, it’s not just its primary consumers that make the hot dog so American, it’s the individualist approach: Everyone starts with the standardized “All Dogs Were Created Equal” concept (i.e., a bun and a tube of meat), but from there the sky’s the limit (but hopefully includes some onions and ‘chup). No wonder America’s original Self Made Man, President Andrew Jackson, called the hot dog his supper of choice.
At Wild Bill’s, it’s all about fundamentals: Grass-fed, organic, gluten-free beef or pork. The dogs here are sourced from a little San Fran company founded by Sue Moore called Let’s Be Frank, which specializes in churning out hot dogs that are good for all god-fearing tubular-beef constituents (i.e. farmers, animals, you and sometimes your trusty plumber). Now, I’m a supporter of such good-natured endeavors (though I’m often known for indulging in a NYC $1.50 Water Dog), but boy does Wild Bill’s reward you for your good deeds: these juicy dogs are a near perfect specimen of their delicious food group. Add a batch of local grilled onions on top, and you’ve got yourself not just a great lunch at the beach, but one of this great country’s finest hot dogs.
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The Meltdown on 30A
Like New York’s much-loved Melt Shop, The Meltdown on 30A specializes in what any self-respecting mother knows is the key to childhood happiness: two slices of white bread with oozing hot processed cheese in the middle. That’s right, this Airstream is hawking grilled cheese.
Though the Meltdown offers a number of classic and unique specialties, I was immediately drawn (as I usually am) to options with bacon. As something of a connoisseur of grilled cheese, I’ve previously grappled with the prospect of slipping a slice of bacon in with all that oozing cheese. The problem I’ve found is that it’s impossible to keep the bacon crispy. And nothing saddlebags a good GC like soggy, sallowy bacon. Not so for the Meltdown, whose Bacon + Brie sandwich (on cranberry bread no less) is gooey, crispy and meaty all at once. Feel free to wipe the grease on your towel.
Interesting side note: head chef Jim Shirley (how accomplished must a head chef at a grilled cheese place feel?) is the owner of a number of other restaurants in town, including the Great Southern Cafe on the other side of Seaside’s village green.
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Barefoot BBQYou can’t really do a Food Trailer Court without a solid BBQ addition. And believe me when I say, Barefoot BBQ is a solid BBQ addition. Again, the meat here is only the good stuff–hormone-free, antibiotic-free, steroid-free. Purists will enjoy the BBQ as is (perfect amount of smoke, particularly in the pork), and the rest will get a kick out of the variety of sauces (4), all homemade. Standing in line, basking in the glorious plumes coming off their smokers (hopefully obscuring their prices) was like a triumphant return to Texas BBQ after too much time in NYC.
Like any good BBQ joint, the sides are not to be underestimated. My foray began and ended with Mac n’ Cheese. So creamy, so cheesy and so perfectly dusted with spices that I couldn’t bring myself to not order it over and over. Consumer beware.
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*Note: Seaside, in fact, embodies the entire concept of the master planned community. It is often cited as the birthplace of New Urbanism, a movement to create walkable mixed-use communities to recapture the vibrancy of neighborhoods before the automobile . For a nice exploration of Seaside and its development, see this article by Travel + Leisure.