It’s tasty how the night moves. A quick pickle delivery and visit with a few friends at Aroma’s Wine Bar in Athens’ five points and then we headed downtown ….not sure where we’d end up for dinner. We happened upon an empty parking space on Clayton and headed up to the corner of Hull Street to peek our heads into the just-opened Five Bar. The cozy, loungy ambiance pulled us right on in …to the back of the eclectic room …and up the steps to the small sushi bar. I wasn’t expecting to find a sushi bar. I’d heard that Five Bar had a really good burger, which was what I figured I’d be getting. Until…. I saw the ‘Harbor Docks’ t-shirt on the busy asian lady behind the bar. Harbor Docks is a restaurant in the town I love to vacation in most ….Destin, Florida …where Phin and I have spent many moments. Me…dreaming on the beach and Phin…dreaming of fishing. Every time we’re in Destin, we always have to wander down to the docks and see what the fishermen are catchin’ …and I know Phin’s always wishing he was one of the them.
I loved watching Yoshie make beautiful edible art and listening to her story. She grew up in Tokyo and learned the art of sushi making in her father’s restaurant. She married and moved to Destin, Florida and began working at Harbor Docks in Destin in 1988. At that time, Harbor Docks’ menu was like many you’ll find in the area…fresh fish with sides and sandwiches. But with the abundance of locally caught, fresh fish coming in right there from the boats docked outside of Harbor Docks…Yoshie started making sushi the way she had been taught in her father’s restaurant. She added a sushi bar and has since added sushi bars and trained sushi chefs in the Destin area and now in two restaurants in Alabama and finally in my town….Athens.
We started with a delicate yellow tail sashimi and more of Yoshie’s story. Every detail of the space at Five Bar was envisioned by Yoshi…from the small, strategic menu to the mismatched array of chandeliers hanging throughout the space. Yoshie grinned and said: “You notice that? The lighting looks like Destin! It looks like Red Bar!” …which is exactly what Phin and I commented on when we first sat down. If you’ve had the pleasure of dinner at 30A’s Red Bar near Seaside, Florida …you will love the similarities between the two! Yoshie won’t be in Athens much longer. She says the beach is calling her back home. Yoshie is just here in Athens long enough to get the ball rolling for and with her son Chris Eddings who is owner of the new eatery. I love knowing the fish they serve at Five Bar is flown in from Destin on the same jet she’s been flying back and forth on….which she says “always smells of Varsity hotdogs on the way back to Destin!”
While there is more to Five Bar than the sushi, I feel blessed to’ve had the chance to get to know Yoshie and her incredible story. Knowing the story behind the restaurant just makes me want to support it even more. Yoshie says: “You have to cook with love, I cook with my soul.” ….and I believe it! By the end of our evening, Phin and I felt like we were her own children. Next time I see her, I’m gonna call her ‘Mama!’
In Alabama, you can get a taste of Yoshie’s ‘soul food’ at Chuck’s Fish in both Tuscaloosa and in Birmingham …and there are plans for another Yoshie inspired spot opening soon in Knoxville, Tennessee. I don’t know how she does it…the more I learned about her, the more inspired I am to go in the direction of my dreams. She says after she got married and had children, she started having fun with cooking. “I wanted to see their happy faces because of something I made.” Her passion has led her to some of the biggest movie sets satisfying the tongues of movie stars like Tom Hanks …but her ‘big’ set is Destin…where you’ll find her busy behind the sushi bar…but not too busy to share a story, a laugh, and a vodka drink!