February 13, 2013 | 8:25am
Have you happened to notice the increasingly prolific Salt Life stickers on the back of cars and SUVs? If not, we're wondering where the heck you have been. They're everywhere.
Now the ubiquitous Salt Life brand has taken on a new life in the form of a small chain of restaurants. The second location--the first is in Jacksonville--opened about nine months ago in Coral Springs. And more are slated to come.
Bill Leahy and Greg Saig, two former Outback guys, approached the founders of the Salt Life brand about the concept for Salt Life Food Shack
. They pay a fee and sell the attire in-store, but aside from that the founders of the brand are not involved in the day to day operations of the restaurant.
The restaurants draw from the brand's beachy, surfer vibe with cool blues and turquoise colors, oceanic inspired prints, and surf and fishing themed decor. The spot has an old Florida beach-cottage feel with reclaimed wood floors and wire brushed oak for the bar. There is even a life-sized sailfish displayed behind the bar. Each restaurant is intended to bring local components to the design of the spot. While all of the existing and planned sites are in Florida, if the restaurant moves out state, Leahy says they plan to include local components. According to him, "If you reflect the indigenous species in the water, people will respond."
The food is a combination of coastal fare from around the world with a large emphasis on tropical components, specifically Costa Rica. Leahy and his partner have sourced recipes from restaurants they have visited on trips. Caliche's Poke Bowl is an example. In exchange for his name on the menu Caliche, a restaurant owner in Jaco Beach in Costa Rica, gave Leahy his poke marinade recipe.
Salt life focuses on making everything from scratch. The coastal fare features dishes like ceviches, sushi rolls, Ensenada tacos, east coast shrimp rolls and soft-shell crab BLTs, as well as the standard ribs burgers, and wings. The restaurant also has a fairly large list of craft beers and cocktails. According to Leahy, each locations menu will differ slightly depending on the local population. "The menus are a bit different in both locations," he says, "We have clam chowder on the menu here, because South Florida has a large Northeastern population. Throughout the country people's definition of a salt life is different."
Avid fishermen and divers themselves, Leahy and Saig liked the brand's homage to the oceanic lifestyle. As of right now there are plans for two new locations: Stuart and Fort Lauderdale. The Stuart location, which is located on an old bridge, is going to be a ways out due to the engineering factors in the design. Fort Lauderdale, which is currently in the works, can happen quickly. Currently Leahy and his partner are in talks with the City of Fort Lauderdale. And they are keeping quiet about the location until all of the details have been sorted out.
In addition to its 'weekly get-togethers'--i.e. different specials every day of the week--the restaurant will be featuring a Valentine's Day special this Thursday through Saturday. For $19.99, it includes a six ounce sirloin, a five ounce lobster tail, and a side.