OUR port city boasts a wealth of seafood. You can get it grilled, blackened, fried, steamed, whole, on the half shell, or filleted.
Even as much as there is available in our local sea of seafood, not every fish is seen as desirable. The biggest concentration of fishy fare is on Tybee Island, which is as to be expected.
And with so many options, it can be seemingly difficult to decide where to shake out the sand and fill your belly after a long day at the beach.
For the past few years, Raw Ingredients has made that choice easier, I would argue in an undebatable way. Raw makes it much easier for seafood aficionados to rendezvous with fresh fish expertly rolled into creative sushi.
Marshall Stevens and Ian Davis opened the joint, eventually bringing in Marshall’s brother Myles Stevens to act as the Director of Operations. The idea was to fill a large hole that was present in the restaurant market of Tybee.
Myles tells the me tale of Raw Ingredients.
“They were working in the surf shops, hustling, and had all of these different ideas,” he says. “This building became available, they were across the street working, and the owner of the building was like, ‘Hey guys, I am going to put this building up for lease.’ They brainstormed and decided to open a sushi restaurant.”
But before opening the doors, Marshall and Ian gained experience by working at various sushi restaurants. The rest was history—everything fell into place and Tybee was never the same.
When you have the love of your locals, success comes easy on Tybee, which becomes apparent in the slow months when all of the tourists have packed up their beach bags and headed back inland.
The idea is to “put out high quality food and in a place where you are comfortable being. Where you can come in, be yourself and relax, and enjoy yourself and still enjoy high quality food,” says Myles.
As for the menu, the most important part of any good shop, it was a collaborative effort, and according to Myles, “also testing the competition, seeing what the competition is doing, then taking what they are doing and adding our own flair.”
I remember the first time I discovered Raw, picking up a Create Your Own Bowl at the end of a long, salty day on Tybee. And since trying it for the very first time, several years ago, the store has only extended its menu into bigger and better options.
Myles says they “didn’t [expand the menu] the first two years. We had a solid menu then added some other things like the Hide Tide and the Spring Roll.”
As one of my favorite menu items, which you will still find on the menu featured along with a few new Create You Own variations, making your own bowl is a great starting point for newcomers.
The available ingredients to pick include twelve different proteins, all of the classic sushi options of course, a plethora of vegetables to layer in, and a choice of sauce to finish it all off. The caveat is, it is extremely easy to go overboard with all of the quality options—but who is judging?
Why not add in multiple sauces and all of your favorite sushi proteins, especially considering “almost all of the sauces are made in house,” as Myles says.
My typical bowl includes shrimp tempura, spicy kani (crab), seaweed, avocado, carrots, spicy mayo, and eel sauce.
The same ingredients can be placed on top of a salad, rolled into a burrito, or handcrafted into a sushi roll you can name after yourself.
If you do not want to create your own, instead relying on the expert’s hand, you will find classic sushi rolls like the California, Spicy Tuna, Spider, and Philadelphia on the menu.
There are the Simple sushi rolls like an Avocado, Cucumber, or Salmon roll, and finally the best options of all of handcrafted rolls—the Special rolls.
The Special rolls are where the store really showcases its unique perspective and style, which you probably already gathered from the the walls that are covered in rotating hand drawn art by Jessica B., a good friend of the restaurant.
My favorite roll is the Flamingo Roll. Its bright colored soy paper wrap makes it easy to ascertain where the roll got its name. Spicy crab meat, avocado, eel, and tempura shrimp, make up this satisfying work of art. For me, there is not a better combination of ingredients that you can put inside of a roll.
Taken as a whole, the flavors that fill your mouth are spicy, sweet, fatty, nutty, and finally umami from the fish—a sticky, sauce-covered creation that I dream about. Ingredient-wise, it is relatively close to the Create Your Own Bowl I order.
The High Tide is filled with shrimp, cheese, and fresh avocado then topped with salmon before the entire roll gets a bake. The tiny touch of baking the finished roll changes the flavor profile of the entire dish, illustrating the distinctive style of Raw.
Keeping with the imaginative theme, the Chathamite is yet another roll that is unique to the store. It features fried shrimp, and rightly so. Alongside the shrimp sits cucumber, a summer fruit that can be found on so many southern tables. The final touch is a topping of spicy tuna and seaweed.
There is much more to come from the cool cats at Raw. The sushi team is set to open a brand new spot next door Ripe Ingredients. The new joint to maintain the cool laid back attitude of Raw while offering high quality and well made smoothies, sandwiches, wraps, and more.
I know I will be keeping an eye out for its inception this summer and stop by to grab a light lunch to take with me to the beach.