F E A T U R E D R E S T A U R A N T
Celebrating a way of life that is immersed in the sea and sand, this St. Augustine Beach restaurant offers a stylish casual setting and inspiring food.
By Wendy White Philcox, Publisher
When a new building rose from a sandy lot directly across from the St. Augustine Beach Fishing Pier and recreation area, St. Augustine Beach would never be the same. Based around the wildly popular lifestyle brand Salt Life, Salt Life Food Shack was a perfect fit for St. Augustine Beach and is now one of the area's favorite dining spots.
Drive down the road and almost every other car you see has a Salt Life decal in the back window. In this area, where the brand was developed, you see the Salt Life logo everywhere—on shirts, hats, sunglasses, shoes and now, best of all, emblazoned on one of St. Augustine Beach’s best and newest restaurants—Salt Life Food Shack.
In 2009, influential team members who own Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille negotiated a licensing agreement with the owners of the Salt Life brand to create restaurants and destinations, which capture the spirit of the brand. Later that year, they converted their Jacksonville Beach Harry’s location to become the first Salt Life Food Shack. The restaurant met with great success and the St. Augustine Beach location soon followed. In April of 2014, the restaurant opened its doors and lines were out the door. Fanfare prior to the opening had been huge as the restaurant was featured on an episode of “Tanked,” featuring a quirky team of fish tank designers and fabricators who develop fantastical custom designs. The St. Augustine location features a custom tank built by the team, which is a big draw for kids and families.
I caught up with Jeff Jabot, to get the scoop on the development of St. Augustine’s Salt Life Food Shack and the future of this popular restaurant concept.
WP: A centerpiece of your restaurant is your amazing salt water fish tank. How did you get the attention of the “Tanked” team and have them create a custom 1,000-gallon fish tank for the St. Augustine restaurant?
JJ: Actually is was fairly simple. I just reached out to them and explained our concept and how well our concept would fit into their show. It piqued their interest enough for them to make a visit and see it for themselves. They immediately loved it and agreed we would be a good fit and story for the show. Then came the hard part of deciding on the design and location of the tank, but luckily it all worked out. It’s truly amazing how many people come to see the aquarium and mention the “Tanked” show.
WP: How did the marriage of the Salt Life brand and a restaurant concept based on that lifestyle come to fruition?
JJ: We know the guys that started Salt Life and reached out to them with the idea of giving Salt Life a sense of place. They loved the idea and a deal was struck. Now, anybody that has a question of what the brand is can come into Salt Life Food Shack and get a taste of what it’s truly about.
WP: Is the St. Augustine location the largest of the locations?
JJ: Yes, it is. It has 6,200 square feet inside with roughly another 3,000 square feet of outside deck. This location is quite unique because it has an upper deck with a bar, which allows the guest to enjoy the beautiful Salt Life atmosphere while dining and taking in views of St. Augustine Beach.
WP: I’ve read that Salt Life Restaurant Group LLC has plans to expand. What markets are you currently looking in?
JJ: We are excited to open a new Fernandina Beach location later this year. We are always looking at other locations throughout the state and are open to many different markets, as long as the location is salty.
WP: How did your team approach menu development for Salt Life?
JJ: We kept it as true to the brand spirit as possible. There is a lot of seafood on the menu. The menu was inspired by some of our favorite salty places we have visited, such as Costa Rica, Hawaii, Nicaragua, the Bahamas and the Keys. We were selective in sharing some dishes we enjoyed during those adventures. I will say that many weeks of tastings went into perfecting the menu.
WP: What are Salt Life’s best selling menu items?
JJ: Hands down the Poke Bowl is number one. This dish is straight from Wishbones in Playa Jaco [Costa Rica]. It consists of fresh tuna seasoned with Caliches’s secret marinade. Served with steamed spinach over sticky rice and finished with diced avocados, green onions and sesame seeds. Our next best sellers would be the Fried Shrimp, Beach Boil, Street Tacos, Beach Burger and our fresh rolled sushi.
WP: As a partner in two successful restaurant concepts—one that has been successful for 31 years and one that has exceeded expectations as the new kid on the lifestyle/experiential block—do you have plans for unveiling any other concepts?
JJ: Yes, we do have plans for other concepts in the future. To be successful with a new concept, it’s all about creating the right culture with a true sense of hospitality being the focus and then finding the right people who believe in and want to work diligently at delivering that culture. If you can do that, you most likely will be successful.
Salt Life Food Shack is open daily for lunch and dinner at 11 a.m. Happy Hour is Monday-Friday from 4-6:30 p.m. Rooftop deck features separate bar and lounge.
“THE MENU WAS INSPIRED BY SOME OF OUR FAVORITE SALTY PLACES WE HAVE VISITED, SUCH AS COSTA RICA, HAWAII, NICARAGUA, THE BAHAMAS AND THE KEYS.”
“IT'S TRULY AMAZING HOW MANY PEOPLE COME TO SEE THE AQUARIUM AND MENTION THE 'TANKED' SHOW.”
“NOW ANYBODY THAT HAS A
Salt Life Seafood Shack
321 A1A Beach Blvd.
St. Augustine Beach