2013 02 7810

Seaside The Beach Bubble

Have you ever seen the Truman Show? That movie with Jim Carey where he's the unknowing star of a reality TV show living in a perfectly manicured beach town? Well that little town is a real place and it's hidden away in the Florida panhandle. Seaside is a place like no other; it was a master-planned community founded in 1981 meant to mimic an old-fashioned beach town and promote a social atmosphere. While at a distance the concept sounds a bit creepy and has the potential to be a social-experiment-gone-wrong, they did everything right and the result is an incredibly beautiful, pleasant and literally perfect little beach town.

Every house is brightly-colored and wood-paneled, all different but with a unifying coastal style. Nothing looks out of place, everything belongs. There's a central horseshoe-shaped town square with a sprawling grass field, surrounded with shops, cafes and restaurants. Bicycles seem to be the transportation of choice; old and young alike fill the bike lanes with fat-wheeled beach cruisers. Everything is nearby and within biking, if not walking distance, including the white sand beaches that hug a turquoise ocean.

We heard there was a cluster of Airstreams converted into food trucks that peddled all kinds of delicious dishes right in the main square. After spending nearly a month living and working inside an Airstream we had gained a sense of pride over anything Airstream-related, so naturally we had to go.

After miraculously finding a parking spot for big ole B.B., we walked through the town square to the stretch of sidewalk where the food trucks are permanently parked. There are five or six Airstreams, each providing something different; the smallest of the lot offered ice cream and sno-cones, one offered organic fresh-squeezed juices and vegan treats, one had hot dogs and one gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. But we settled on Barefoot BBQ, made up of two shiny Airstreams (one for food prep and one for ordering) with a smoker and a grill between them. We stuck to the classics: one pulled pork sandwich, one brisket sandwich with BBQ baked beans, potato salad and a couple of pickles on the side. We dug in at a picnic table on the sidewalk within arms-reach of the trailer. Everything was delicious; the meat tender with plenty of chew and well-seasoned, the baked beans had an unapologetically spicy kick thanks to the slices of jalapenos we found among beans and chunks of pulled pork, and the potato salad was perfectly creamy with a strong mustard tang.

Full of barbecue, we walked just across the street to Amavida Coffee for a post-meal pick-me-up. This bustling little coffee shop serves coffee that they ethically and directly source from coffee farmers and roast in the nearby Panama City. They have a proper espresso machine and prepare a wide variety of coffee and tea from all over the world. We enjoyed a couple of tasty cappuccinos and were on our way. We walked along the edge of the town square and found ourselves making a lap through Modica Market, a gourmet grocery with lofty ceilings and tall shelves full of local products and couldn't resist the chocolate chip cookies at the bakery. Then Sundog Books, an independent bookstore with a funky record shop above it, with bright graphic band posters and tee shirts plastering the wall.

Central Square Records

Modica Market

As a carefully planned beachside community, it would be easy to assume that Seaside would be inflexible and elitist, but there's an open-mindedness and a relaxed quirkiness about this little town that allows for the unexpected. It's a place that was built to evoke nostalgia but isn't stuck in the past.

Special thanks to Chryseis G. (who suggested Check out Central Square Records in seaside and see the beach in near solitude.) for making this blog post possible!

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