People come from all over the world to Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach looking for their little piece of heaven, but every day in paradise can’t be sunny and 80 degrees. On this particular Friday night, it was cold and rainy, but I was determined to scratch that tropical itch, so I made my way to Salt Life Food Shack at Main Beach for dinner with a very special friend.
Salt Life Food Shack in Fernandina Beach is the third location for the young ocean-themed chain, but this one belongs to us. Despite the wonky weather, the bar was hopping and the dining room was full. Apparently, I was not the only one pining for an island-style attitude adjustment.
Salt Life boasts a youthful vibe, which is reflected in the staff, many of whom are current or former Culinary Arts students of mine at Fernandina Beach High School. It’s always a treat to bump into students working in the world, and tonight our hostess was one of my freshmen. On the way to our table, we passed the bar, wrapped in tiles of cool teal, sea foam green, and ocean blue, looking out over what is typically a packed deck and bustling sidewalk scene, but tonight the fun outside was on hold. Inside, however, the surf videos and reggae rhythms were keeping everything irie.
Once situated at our table, I ordered a Cosmico for myself and a featured Coconut Margarita for Jessica, my guest. The Cosmico is one of many stellar offerings from Mocama Beer Company, located here on Amelia Island. I also ordered my favorite thing on the menu at Salt Life: the Mexican Shrimp Roll. The Cosmico is crisp with citrus appeal, and it went wonderfully with the roll, which features tempura-battered shrimp and avocado wrapped in soy paper and topped with sliced ahi, fresh jalapeños, Sriracha, and tobiko.
We ordered our entrees from the “Seasonal Specials” menu, where we found the Coconut Margarita. Featured currently is a dynamite Lobster with Johnny Cakes, a cross-climate mix of cold-water lobster and Caribbean comfort, reminding us that warmer weather is only a few weeks away. The lobster was buttery and delicious, and the Johnny cakes were studded with bell peppers and kernels of fresh corn, all of which was drizzled in a lime cream sauce spiked with coconut rum. In addition to the lobster, we found a Crab Baked Grouper that harkened back to my “good old days” at the Golden Grouper Café. Served with crispy and perfectly seasoned new potatoes and mixed veggies, the grouper was moist, flaky, and topped with a luscious spinach and crabmeat cream.
We had a ball laughing and hanging out, and everyone around us seemed to be doing the same. The bar stayed full, and people were hanging out, making the most of the scene despite the weather. I cannot wait to come back again with family and friends, hopefully under a summer sunset looking over the Atlantic Ocean from upstairs. Salt Life should not be missed. Located at Main Beach across from the Putt-Putt Amelia Island, it is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., midnight on Friday and Saturday.