A lot has changed since a group of friends played ball together at Fort Walton Beach High School, but the gang is back together and opening Jackacudas Seafood & Sushi in HarborWalk Village.
"I was born and raised on fresh seafood right off the boat," said Co-owner Tyler Jarvis, who is the son of longtime Destin boat captain Gary Jarvis. "This whole restaurant is based on the philosophy of fresh, local, sustainable seafood."
Located at 56 Harbor Boulevard, Jackacudas is expected to open its doors by early spring in the former home of Poppy's Crazy Lobster.
In addition to Jarvis, the Jackacudas team consists of Chris Ruyan (co-owner), Tyler McMahan (executive chef) and Efrain Tirado (sushi chef).
Jarvis, McMahan and Ruyan have been friends since they were kids, while Tirado joined the team from San Diego, Calif., where he learned his craft at restaurants such as Nobu, Jrdn and Zensei Sushi. Tirado has been crafting unique sushi rolls for more than a dozen years.
Tirado's sushi isn't your typical soy sauce-heavy roll either; it's "more of a fusion style."
"It's house-made sauces that will compliment the rolls and the proteins," he said.
As a 15-plus year restaurant veteran, McMahan, who was also dubbed the "Ling King" after catching the first cobia of the season in March, has cut his chops at the Bay Cafe, Old Bay Steamer, and Tommy Bahamas.
"We are going to use a lot of natural, organic, free-range chicken, and grass-fed beef," McMahan said. "We are also going to have gluten-free products, which is huge these days."
And fresh ingredients go beyond just the proteins, Ruyan told The Log. He said the 250-seat restaurant will also support local businesses by using local honey, local greens and any other ingredients they can source from the area.
As for the restaurant’s name, Jarvis said the Jackacudas is an actual fishing location that sits about 34 miles outside of Destin. The name came about after a local boat captain, Dale Beebee, took a group of anglers to the fishing hole to catch amberjack.
"All he caught was barracudas," Jarvis said. "So they renamed the wreck the jackacuda — it's a real place and a true story."
Given the group's close ties to the fishing industry and Destin, Ruyan said they really wanted to "pay homage to the fishing community," which is the lifeblood of Destin.
After securing the building Jan. 3, Jarvis said there is plenty of work to be done, as they have to replace flooring, paint walls, construct a sushi counter and put their finishing touches on the restaurant space.
Jackacudas will feature 20 beers on tap, a full saki menu, wine, and house-infused cocktails, as well as a "made from scratch" menu, complete with homemade ketchup.
To learn more about Jackacudas Seafood & Sushi find them on Facebook. Their website, www.jackacudas.com, is currently under construction.
"We're just a bunch of local guys that wanted to create a place for locals and tourists alike," Jarvis told The Log. "It's all about hospitality."