Chef Brannon Janca opened Down Island Seafood Restaurant in Santa Rosa Beach, FL on January 11, 2022. This modern casual restaurant serves primarily Gulf South cuisine, driven by technique to let the ingredients speak for themselves. Guests can expect elevated regional favorites that are simply and thoughtfully prepared. The menu features wood-fired Gulf seafood in an Italian brick pizza oven as well as various raw bar selections including regional oysters. The staple seafood selections are fish, oysters, shrimp and crab. Stefani Janca, Brannon’s wife, is a registered and licensed dietitian, so guests can expect plenty of options for non-seafood lovers and accommodations for those with special diets. Down Island is family-friendly and has a kid’s menu with classic favorites. The team at Down Island strives to be inclusive to all and welcomes the opportunity to take care of you as if you were dining in their own home. **Now open Monday- Saturdays 5-10pm
Down Island can accommodate private parties of up to 50 people in the upstairs dining space, dubbed Ocean’s Loft in memory of Janca’s late brother, Ocean (Shannon). This space is handicap accessible by elevator and also features a separate bar, bathroom and exterior entrance/stairwell. Ocean’s Loft, as well as the entire restaurant, is available for rental. Down Island also offers boutique off-site catering.
About Chef Janca
Chef Brannon Janca grew up steps from the Gulf of Mexico in Pascagoula, Mississippi. He spent his summers in his grandfather’s gardens and chicken coups learning the true definition of farm to table. Janca has a unique and artistic approach to food and design, and is known for revolutionizing casual dining. He spent the last 16 years building a successful company (Word of Mouth Restaurant Group) with over 150 employees in three states. In the early days when he was still primarily in the kitchen, Janca developed a local following due to his creative tasting menus and presentations. As the company grew, however, Janca’s time spent cooking and being creative was quickly replaced with meetings, traffic, and the unglamorous side of business. In January of 2018, Janca decided he needed a change for his personal growth and well-being. He decided to get back to his true passion, his love of cooking and hospitality. Janca quit his job, found an old building on highway 98, and spent the next few years renovating it into his dream restaurant alongside his wife, Stefani, and with the support and encouragement of his mother, Trudi.
About Stefani Janca Co-owner Stefani has extensive experience working with special diets and various food allergies/sensitivities. She knows firsthand how frustrating it can be to have limited menu options when dining out, or to not have your requests/needs taken seriously. The menu features from-scratch cooking, so many dishes can be modified to fit your dietary needs by simply swapping out or omitting ingredients. For those with more complex or unique dietary restrictions, Stefani recommends guests call the restaurant ahead of time to speak with her or one of the chefs so that they can properly prepare for your visit.
About the Name “Down Island” Down Island is coastal slang for “down on the island,” which is most often used by mariners or islanders to describe their location. For example, “Sorry I can’t make it — I’ll be down island this weekend.”
Born and raised on the Mississippi Sound, Chef Janca owes his creative spirit to the barrier islands that make up the Gulf Island National Seashore. He has visited, camped, and cooked on these islands hundreds of times in his life, particularly on Horn and Petit Bois Island. These special places shaped him into the artist and chef he is today.
Put simply, Down Island combines Chef Janca’s passion for Gulf South cuisine and southern hospitality roots to bring into existence a creative, adventurous and inviting atmosphere for visitors and locals alike.
About the Location Down Island is located at the former site of Dave’s Glas Haus, a long standing structure that Dave Hillgenberg originally modeled after a Seaside beach home he fell in love with during the 90s. This style is what drew Janca to the location in the first place, and his goal has always been to preserve as much of the original structure as possible. After convincing Dave to sell him the place, Janca worked with him for a year learning the art of glass and mirror work. Down Island would not be possible today without the permission, hard work, and encouragement provided by Dave Hillgenberg. Dave continues to do glasswork at his shop in Freeport, FL and has helped Janca install glass and mirrors throughout the restaurant.