Have you seen the car decals and wondered, What is Salt Life? Am I living a Salt Life?
It started with decals promoting interest in or life on the salty seas. A sub-culture of divers, captains, surfers, and ocean lovers formed around the logo, and soon the brand was on clothing in stores nationwide. Foods and beverages were the next big splash. The Jacksonville Beach-based Food Shack opened in 2009, and a second in St. Augustine in 2014.
In November 2018, Salt Life Food Shack opened at Main Beach in Fernandina Beach. Long-time visitors to this island, as is this writer, will remember this spot fondly: the pinball machines and laundromat were here, next door to the go-carts place, which would later become a waterslide. How much fun generations have had in this location!
Fun is back on this spot with Salt Life Food Shack. This two-story, mostly open-air, beachy structure seats 300 people in all manner of booths, tables, and bar seating. At our top deck, high-top table, we had a 180-degree view of Main Beach, N. and S. Fletcher Avenues, and the ocean. Stunning island views stretched in all directions. Downstairs is a 1,600-gallon saltwater fish tank. This must be the Salt Life.
Salt Lifers like drinks that remind them of their adventures: In addition to beer and wine, Salt Life Food Shack offers 18 drinks with rums from Key West to Panama and Trinidad. Island Concoctions include Margaritas, Mai Tais, Mojitos, and a Mule. I chose the Vitamin Sea, a work-of-art that starts as a Strawberry Daiquiri with mango and coconut and swirls in a smooth base of Disarrono Amaretto.
Chowder-makers ourselves, we were glad when our server Ashton, a Callahan City Councilperson earning some extra money, guided us toward the red, spicy Bahamian Fish Chowder, with chunks of whitefish, and the thick, creamy New England Clam Chowder, with a big clam flavor. New to me were the Avocado Fries, lightly breaded sections of avocado fried and served with Shack Sauce, which were a smooth, healthful treat.
My Crab Baked Grouper was ideal, a firm grouper filet topped with lots of creamy flavorful lump crab and spinach. “Sometimes people substitute rice or fries for the side of grilled vegetables, but I tell them our vegetables are really good,” said Ashton. “Our fries are, too, so whatever makes them happy is what they’ll get.” The grilled vegetables were indeed elevated.
Good health must be important to living the Salt Life, for the menu indicates items with nuts or bacon, a gluten-free menu is available, and manager Marcos Jovel encourages the staff to be flexible in meeting every special request. And each of the salads, oysters, street tacos, sushi, bowls, burgers, and sandwiches is served with those flavorful grilled vegetables. Next time, I’ll get Caliche’s Poke Bowl, straight out of Caliche’s Wishbone in Playa Jacó, Costa Rica.
With plenty of parking, generous opening hours starting every day at 11 a.m., an elevator to the top, a variety of seating options, and an enticing children’s menu, it’s just so easy to make Salt Life Food Shack a part of life on Amelia Island.
Is this what Salt Life means—being at the beach and spending time in, on, or near the ocean? If you are reading this magazine, you’re probably living the Salt Life already. Salt Life Food Shack is located at 17 N. Fletcher Avenue at Main Beach.