La Cocina for some of the best Mexican on the A


The memory of Lulu, the beloved Boston Terrier of George and Ann Hartley, lives on at La Cocina.

Contributed photo
Published: Friday, August 15, 2014 at 09:15 AM.

When George and Ann Hartley moved from Dallas to South Walton in 1997, they discovered they had given up more than big-city life — they had also given up the authentic Mexican food they loved.

The Hartleys purchased Seagrove Village Market Cafe in 1999, with its trademark Southern-fried menu.

However, after settling in and building a following, during the off season the Hartleys began testing the market by offering a Mexican night every Thursday night at the cafe. Ann would email a simple menu out to her local contacts offering Senora Ann's Fish Tacos, a soup, and sangria for that night only.

"I'm not a chef, but I know how to prepare the Mexican dishes that I like," she said. "I would cook and set out the plates and tell the help to be sure to garnish with cilantro, and they would laugh. Those were the good old days."

Mexican Thursdays proved to be so popular that the Hartleys recognized they weren't the only ones craving authentic Mexican food at the beach. And when space came available in the new Villages of South Walton in Seacrest, the Hartleys slid in and opened La Cocina.

"Our favorite restaurant in Dallas is Mi Cocina and we wanted it to be like that," said Ann. "George is from Texas and I lived there for 20 years. We ate Mexican three nights a week and when we moved here there was no place to get it. We missed our Mexican fix."

The menu is a result of George, Ann, and Executive Chef Ben Lilliard putting their heads together.

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