Driving around Jacksonville, you are bound to notice one ubiquitous identifier of locals: Salt Life car decals. It might be an exaggeration to say that something like 1 in 5 cars carries a Salt Life sticker–but not much of one. After a week or so, my curiosity got the best of me and I hit the internets to find out what Salt Life was all about. Turns out, it’s a surf shop + restaurant out on Jax Beach. The restaurant portion seemed to be well-loved, so I convinced a few other new-hires at the job to check it out with me one weekend.
Here we find another misnomered restaurant–calling the place a food “shack” is sellint it extremely short. The modern wood and stucco exterior is made more casual by beachy-but-classy interior decor, like gorgeous wood floors and tables inlaid with ocean blue tile (don’t quote me on any of that, I’m no designer). I was excited to have dining buddies who were down with slurping oysters, and we ordered both the chargrilled and raw platters to share.
I was disappointed with both–the oysters were very small all around. While you can rarely go wrong with the butter and cheese combo that topped the chargrilled platter, any flavor the tiny oysters might have had was hidden under a mountain of cheese.
Our entrees were more redeeming. I had the house specialty Caliche’s Poke Bowl (fresh tuna seasoned with Caliche’s secret marinade served with spinach over sticky rice, topped with avocado and green onion), while my companions tried a Hawaiian shrimp bowl (fresh shrimp, squash, zucchini, onions, peppers, and pineapple, sauteed in a ginger soy glaze, served over sticky rice and spinach topped with avocado) and a fish sandwich “Boca Style” (sauteed Mahi topped with avocado, tomato, and a lime drizzle).
My Poke Bowl was decent. I quickly realized that this was basically a deconstructed tuna-avocado sushi roll (sub spinach for seaweed). The tuna was incredibly fresh and they were quite generous with the portion, but “Caliche’s secret marinade” seemed to be not much more than soy sauce. Regardless, the dish was fresh and satisfying. My coworkers enjoyed their meals with some reservations as well. Everything fell into the “good, but not great” category.
Overall, we thought Salt Life was a fun destination. The seafood was a little hit-and-miss (tiny oysters, but great fresh tuna) but the dishes were creative. I think those ever-present car decals are probably more indicative of the surf shop portion and the lifestyle it embodies than the food at the food shack.