By Lauren Sage Reinlie
Aug. 23, 2023
INLET BEACH – Christy and her dad Rick, the team behind Spell Restaurant Group, had always wanted to add a sushi concept to their ever-expanding line-up of eateries in the 30A area. But, before Shaka Sushi and Cocktail Bar opened in Inlet Beach in 2019, they had to go to Panama City Beach or Destin for a whole sushi experience when the craving hit.
“We actually had a sushi infusion concept in our pocket if we found the right location,” Christy said. “We just hadn’t been able to find it.”
When the owners of Shaka approached them about taking over the restaurant, they were happy to discover it would be an excellent fit for their company. They took over operations in April.
It helped that the restaurant’s chef, James Sargent, was someone Christy and her dad had their eyes on if they ever had the chance to open their own sushi concept. “He is very well known in our area,” Christy said. “He’s the sushi king of 30A. His food is fabulous. So it’s fun that we are actually getting to take that over and have the concept we had always wanted.”
Sargent was raised in a military family, traveling worldwide and falling in love with different cuisines. In Hawaii, he discovered sushi. At age 15, in Pensacola, he began his career at a Japanese steakhouse and has worked his way up since. He prides himself on serving the freshest fish, placing overnight delivery orders from Hawaii for specific filets.
The chef’s unique creations rotate, but some of his signature roll mainstays include the Double Red Flag with smoked salmon and avocado wrapped in soy paper and topped with tuna tartare; the Black Shangri-La with soft-shell crab, aioli, and green onion topped with eel; and the Locals Only Roll with yellowtail, bacon, aioli, cream cheese, tempura, and green onions, topped with avocado, pickled jalapeño, togarashi, and a soy reduction.
The menu also features options for those not inclined to consume raw fish. Appetizers include grilled octopus, a Korean beef bulgogi plate with seasonal kimchi, and salmon cakes. Entrees include Kalbi beef short ribs served with seasonal kimchi, seared yellowfin tuna, and fried rice plates. Ramen and udon noodle bowls are also available with options such as the Bodhi Bowl with pork broth, ramen, pork belly and tenderloin, pickled veggies, soft-boiled egg, mushrooms, cilantro, and bok choy.
The drink menu features a variety of hot and cold sakis. Beer and wine are available, as are cocktails such as the Peach Plum Mule with vodka, saki, citrus, Serrano pepper, peach syrup, and ginger beer; the Rosemary gimlet; and the Gin-ger Drop made with gin, sake, fresh ginger, and ginger beer. The bartenders are always coming up with creative seasonal offerings as well.
Shaka’s interior is decorated with a light and airy vibe. It includes a sushi bar where guests can see offerings being prepared.
“It’s such a beautiful, bright, cheery space,” Christy said. “I just love the decor.”
A covered outdoor patio is screened in and has heaters for cool weather. “When the weather is beautiful, everybody wants to be out there.”
The restaurant offers both inside and curbside pick-up and has a popular delivery service through 30A Grub2Go. Christy said Sargent is also interested in bolstering his private event catering when he visits a home or another location to create his signature rolls for 10 or more guests.
She is excited to see what other ways Shaka can expand.
“The team seems really eager to get guidance and to grow that business more,” she said. “We see a lot of growth potential.”
Shaka Sushi and Cocktail Bar is located at 13625 U.S. Hwy. 98 East, Suite 5 and 6 in Inlet Beach. They are open from 4 to 10 p.m. daily. Reservations are not accepted. Find more information by calling 850-909-0030 or visit their website at shaka30a.com.