Spring is a beautiful time in Fernandina Beach. Loquats are ripening all over town, citrus blossoms are exploding, and the restaurant business is starting to boom. Recently, on a particularly perfect evening, I met a handful of friends at Salt Life Food Shack to catch up, shoot the breeze, and share some good food.
Salt Life Fernandina Beach is the third location for this restaurant group, but this one is ours. Cool teal, sea foam green, and ocean blue tile surround the bar. Open to both the deck and dining room, the bar overlooks the bustling sidewalk scene, while inside a huge aquarium welcomes guests and televisions play sports and surf videos.
At five-thirty on a Thursday evening, the place is packed, and hungry patrons are lining up. I met my friend and mentor, Sally Fulford, at the hostess stand, and we waited for our table at the bar on the deck. Sally and I worked together at Fernandina Beach High School until she retired last year. We also grew up out in Old Town, the original site of the town of Fernandina. We enjoyed a half-dozen Crab Baked Oysters and a couple of Salty Margaritas while swapped stories about good times remembered at Main Beach.
Soon we were led upstairs to our table, where to the west we could see the sun setting over the dunes of Fort Clinch. We ordered Avocado Fries and watched a lone surfer catch his last couple of waves for the day. The crispy outer coating of the Avocado Fries paired with its creamy smooth middle where sinfully delicious. As we considered our entrees, our nostalgia-fest was crashed by our good friends, Christie and Carlin, whom we invited to join us.
Sally opted to try the Southern Fried Shrimp, a true test for any restaurant that prides themselves on serving fresh, local seafood. Christie and Carlin ordered tacos, choosing the grilled Skirt Steak Tacos and the Poke Tuna Tacos. We ordered a Mexican Roll for the table and a Crab Boil for myself. The Mexican Roll is made with tempura-battered shrimp and avocado wrapped in soy paper and topped with sliced ahi, fresh jalapeños, Sriracha, and fish eggs. A real hit at the table, and anyone who loves sushi will love this dish.
The Crab Boil was exactly what you hope for: three clusters of steaming hot snow crab, served with crisp corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, and melted butter. Then Christie shared some of her Poke Tuna Taco with me, and I have to admit, I was a little jealous. The tuna is raw and tossed in sesame soy dressing with avocado and wasabi cream, and wrapped in a flour tortilla. Sally’s fried shrimp came butterflied and lightly breaded in a basket atop a pile of crispy french fries.
We had so much fun laughing and hanging out. All around us people were doing the same. The upstairs bar was full, and people were hanging out on couches with camp fire coffee tables. I can’t wait to come back with family and friends. Salt Life shouldn’t be missed. Located at Main Beach across from the Putt Putt, it is open seven days a week from 11am -11pm, midnight on Friday and Saturday.