When you think of all those seaside munchies to tackle when you’re strolling down the beach, you undoubtedly ponder over piles and piles of marinated seafood and buttered crustaceans. Sure, hand-battered shrimp and fried clams are classic coastal delights, but as someone who was raised along the small town coast, I can assure you that our greatest treasures lie not in the fishy buffets, but in the hidden local gems of unexpected eats (seaside tacos, anyone?).

Flagler Beach, FL, my beloved little hometown, is the queen of cuisine. As expected, you can get seafood on every corner, but her true allure rests in the unanticipated menus of locals’ favorite diners, parlors, and bars.

tea, beer, coffee
Shannon Herlihy

You can start the day sipping on a Peppermint Patti latte with the sunrise on the Java Joint deck before letting your lunch options battle it out: Burrito Works vs. Rocky’s Pizzeria. Mexicakes (literally layers of tacos in classic cake-style format, yum much?) are pretty hard to come by anywhere else, but there’s also something oh-so-delightful about wiggling your toes in the sand while chowing down on two slices of pizza and a soda—the everlasting $5 Rocky’s special.

Sally’s will tug at your dessert cravings with their 30+ authentic ice cream flavors; hell, try them all. Everyone has a second stomach for sweets, right? End your night at Finn’s rooftop bar overlooking the sea while you sway to consistently impressive live music. Not too shabby for an average day, huh? beer, cake, tea, pizza, coffee
Shannon Herlihy

Yes, there is something undeniably special about Flagler Beach. Perhaps it’s all the lovable, inviting restaurants and the good vibes radiating from full stomachs and smiling faces. It’s most likely a mixture of those things with that peaceful beach aura—a non-tourist beach, at that. Just like mac ‘n cheese and PB&J, food and the ocean are a classic dynamic duo, and the good ol’ 386 serves the pair up on a heaping platter.

Of course, Flagler Beach is as unique as I declare it to be, but the truth is there are countless small beach towns along our American coast that are begging you to experience their original flair. Don’t just go straight for that seafood platter—I promise we all have more to offer than the stereotypical seaside experience.