Brothers Jason, Jimmy, and Jonny Rehm were born into the business, the sons of a prominent New York City restaurateur. In high school, "after-school activities" meant working in restaurant kitchens, washing dishes and peeling shrimp.
But summers were a different story.
Those days were spent surfing and camping out in Montauk, Long Island with their longtime friend, Adam Harlan. After long days of riding the waves, they learned to cook up the fresh, simple dishes that now serve as the inspiration for their new restaurant's menu. Surf Shack Coastal Kitchen will open its doors in Westchase on Friday, Dec. 2.
Surf Shack isn't the first restaurant for this four-person team. The Rehms and Harlan also own and operate Westchase's and Zim Zari California Coastal Grill located in Trinity, Fla. They founded and opened Chico's Woodfired Grill, but sold it three years ago, prior to its closing. That space now houses Surf Shack
"Surf Shack really began as a dream amongst the four of us," says Surf Shack owner Adam Harlan. "We wanted to celebrate the surf culture."
That culture is evident in the tall bamboo shoots surrounding an open-air patio at Surf Shack, offering a clear view to the surf movies playing on a cinema-sized screen on the back wall. "Live Free" is a surfing motto the restaurant aims to embody, says Harlan, and it's emblazoned on the wall in bright colors.
Authentic surfboards and colorful scuba flippers adorn the walls, making the overall feeling of this place ultra-casual. In this laid-back haven, Jack Johnson tunes make an ideal dinner soundtrack, unless it's a Thursday night, when you'll find live music on the patio. For those unfamiliar with the likes of "Gidget and Moondoggie," not to worry -- sports are on flatscreen TVs at the bar. Service is friendly and casual, and while currently only beer and wine are served, liquor will be offered on the menu within the next month. But with "saketinis" and various tropical sangrias from which to choose, we suspect patrons won't notice anything missing.
Surf Shack's head chef, Eben Chriss hails from Oregon. He met Harlan and the Rehm brothers at a surf shack in Laguna Beach, Ca. The men bonded over long talks about their ideal "surf food."
"It's a fusion," said owner Jason Rehm, "It's a blend of Mexican, Asian and California cuisine."
Patch was invited this week to sample the cuisine during a sneak preview for friends and family of Surf Shack team. We started with the Ginger Lime Sangria, a fresh blend of white wine and fruit liquors, and a beer brewed exclusively for Surf Shack, called the Shack Red. These paired nicely with an appetizer of Ahi Tuna Poke, bite-sized chunks of citrus-marinated tuna with cucumber slices and chiles, served with wonton crisps and tangy Asian vinaigrette.
Next we tried the Pipeline Tacos, with grilled cod, thinly sliced cabbage, and a chile-tomatillo salsa. On the side was a piquant "surf slaw" with bold flavors or lime and cilantro. Everything on the plate was fresh and healthy. The Kahuna Pork Bowl was another tasty entree, with orange chile pork, stir-fried with pineapple, carrots and red bell pepper atop citrus rice (also can be ordered with brown rice.)
Once open, Surf Shack will offer happy hour daily from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Drinks are half price from 9 p.m. until close for members of their VIP club, the "League of the Longboarders." To join, sign up for their email list on their Facebook page. Another bonus: kids eat free on Sundays.