Rosemary Beach

A sustainably designed place in the sun

By Sarah Kinbar

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“I was particularly impressed with the size of the sand live oaks... We fought hard to convince state and local entities that having tree-lined streets would calm traffic through town. It is quite beautiful now, but I can only imagine how much more beautiful it will be with another few decades of maturity,” says Poulakos.

Poulakos worked closely with horticulturist Randy Harelson, once owner of a local nursery called the Gourd Garden, who advised him on incorporating native plants into the town’s design as well as creating a butterfly habitat in the northwest corner on West Kingston Road. The Butterfly Garden has become a touchstone for Rosemary Beach’s interface between development and nature, asking visitors to consider how we can coexist with the life that was here before we came along to share the space.

Although most around town are visitors, some business owners live in Rosemary Beach year-round, and there are families from Atlanta and other southeastern cities who have weekend homes here. They are regulars at every establishment in town. A walk down Main Street, which leads from the town center to the ocean, is met with honest smiles and greetings from shop owners and managers as well as the locals who populate café tables.

Instead of moving onward to the shore, this is the time to stop and enjoy the restaurants that cater to sophisticated food sensibilities. Steve Kim, the head sushi chef at Aqua Coastal Sushi, open for just a year, crafts an appetizer of delectable New Zealand green-lipped mussels, which are seated atop a bed of cinnamon-infused sushi rice and overlaid with ponzu sauce and aioli, baked, and sprinkled with rose crystals.

“The fun of this is tweaking the details. I consider flavor profiles and pay attention to how little changes can dramatically enhance the way things taste,” explains Kim. His philosophy plays out in every dish, even the edamame, which is heightened with truffle oil and pink Himalayan sea salt.

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