Jackacuda’s is having a sister: New restaurant, Brotula’s, coming to old Fisherman’s Wharf

Savannah Vasquez
The old Fisherman’s Wharf building is undergoing a complete renovation to accommodate the new restaurant. “It will be very casual and family friendly,” said Owner Chris Ruyan. “We want to be cutting edge, and very creative with food variation and locally sourced ingredients.”

It’s been advertised for months, in front of the old Fisherman’s Wharf that a new restaurant was to come in the spring. Now, with spring only a few weeks away, the time is finally come for the  big reveal. Tyler Jarvis and Chris Ruyan of Jackacuda’s Seafood & Sushi will be opening a sister restaurant at the location April 1 with Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer.

“We are going to focus on steamed and boiled seafood with different finishing seasonings, flavored boiled waters, and finishing butters” said Ruyan. “We will have fresh shell fish, Alaskan snow crab and king crab, local and domestic oysters, mussels, clams, blue crab and shrimp.”

Jarvis added that like their flagship restaurant Jackacuda’s, all of the fish served at Brotula’s will be local from the Gulf of Mexico.

“We will serve grouper, snapper and amberjack, and have daily chef specials with whatever fish is in season at the time,” he said.

Another local tone that will be echoed from Jackacuda’s will be the Fish Trax program. Fish Trax is a government tracking program that monitors local catches by tagging when and where the fish is caught; this method ensures the restaurateurs’ fresh and local promise; and as an added bonus promotes the local fishing fleet.

“We will continue with the fresh fish program,” said Ruyan. “On each piece of fish that comes out will be a number that explains where and when the fish was caught, on what boat, and by what captain.”

Both Jarvis and Ruyan emphasized that staying local is the core of their business. The pair grew up together on the Emerald Coast along with head chef Tyler McMahan, and all three of the life-long friends attended Fort Walton Beach High School together.

“We are the traveling trio,” said Ruyan. “Chef Tyler is the master mind behind the menu and will be writing the menus for both restaurants.”

Now for the question Ruyan said seems to be on everyone’s mind; where did the name come from? Is it a play on the trio of high school brothers with the slang word bro?

“Actually that’s what a lot of people think,” laughed Ruyan. “But it’s actually from a well kept secret in the Gulf of Mexico; it’s a fish called a cusk eel, but its scientific name is Brotula.”

Jarvis explained that among local fishermen, the cusk eel is known as a delicacy, but the rare fish cannot be found on menus.

“It’s actually a by-catch when deep sea fishing for grouper,” explained Jarvis. “It can only be found in water 300 feet down or deeper.”

Ruyan put the rarity of the eel in local fisherman’s terms. 

“If a boat ran three charters a day for 100 days they might catch six if they’re lucky,” he said. “It’s a joke among captains here that if a customer catches one they say, ‘Don’t touch that fish it’s poisonous,’ because they want to take it home and eat it themselves.”

Although Brotula will not be on the restaurant’s permanent menu, Jarvis told The Log the delicacy will be brought in if the local captains sell it to the market.

“We actually served it in the restaurant last year; it’s delicious,” he said. “When the local fishermen found out we had cusk eel they were like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re getting that!’”

For Jarvis the new restaurant, located on land owned by the Destin Fishing Fleet coop, has a personal connection harkening back to his childhood.

 “My dad (Gary Jarvis) has a slip right behind the restaurant on the Backdown 2,” said Jarvis. “It’s like a dream to be right there where I used to play on the docks.”

With 33 local charter boats in the water directly behind the restaurant, Brotula’s will truly showcase Destin’s legacy as the ‘World’s luckiest fishing village.’

“We will promote the ‘Hook and Cook,’ feature of our menu that allows guests to bring in their catch for us to prepare,” said Ruyan. “We want our guests to be able to come in from their fishing trip and continue their good time.”

“The method behind it is to encourage people to be more social,” added Jarvis. “That’s what restaurants are all about, social interaction, fun and relaxation.”

Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer located at 210 Harbor Blvd. in Destin is set for grand opening on April 1. The restaurant will seat 280 and boasts a brand new bar, refurbished deck and a new stage for live performances. For more information visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.