Beachin' Shrimp is Micronesia Mall's newest lunch spot. Opened in July, the cozy, coastal-inspired restaurant adjacent to Ross Dress for Less is a perfect spot for shoppers to get a bite to eat between stores, or for less enthusiastic shopping partners to escape, as the local concept's third location comes equipped with a bar and flat-screen TV.
True to its name, Beachin' Shrimp is the place to go if you have a craving for the nation's favorite seafood. According to World Atlas, Americans eat an average of 4 pounds of shrimp per person each year. And Beachin' Shrimp doles out its fair share of prawns – owner Darren Talai says the restaurant serves up approximately 9,000 shrimp each day.
No stranger to the restaurant world, Talai grew up on the California coast, where his father owned several restaurants in the Bay Area. Talai spent his spare time working his way through the restaurants, eventually studying at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.
After more than a decade working as the chief operating officer for a division of the company that owns Tony Roma's and Capricciosa, Talai reached a crossroads.
"I had to make the decision, am I gonna be a corporate guy for the rest of my life or am I gonna take a chance to be an entrepreneur for myself?" Talai recalls. Not long after Talai, now president of International Dining Concepts LLC, which includes Beachin' Shrimp, took the plunge, purchasing California Pizza Kitchen.
It was a success, he says, and he eventually was given the opportunity to open a restaurant in the original Beachin' Shrimp's current location. Talai says it was too good an opportunity to pass up and he could finally launch the shrimp concept that had always been in the back of his mind.
He says he remembers many seafood restaurants he frequented as a kid and during later travels always took note of shrimp dishes he enjoyed abroad.
"I had always remembered specific shrimp dishes in my travels ... that I really loved," he says. "I came up with my own versions of those to create the menu for Beachin' Shrimp."
Guests can now enjoy a global take on shrimp at the Carolina coast inspired restaurant, from a garlicky take on a classic Spanish tapas dish to the spicy, bayou-inspired Beachin' Shrimp, swimming in a broth that simmers for 10 hours ahead of time.
Popular items and personal favorites
Gambas al Ajillo, or garlic shrimp, is one of their most popular menu items, Talai says.
"If you ever go somewhere to have Spanish tapas ... somebody's gonna order that dish," he says. "We sauté the prawns in olive oil, butter, lots of garlic, then we add fresh lemon juice, white wine, red crushed pepper and smoked paprika."
Talai's personal favorite, however, would be the Chimichurri Shrimp: several large prawns sit in a bath of chimichurri, a blend of parsley, basil, cilantro, garlic, lime and spices that Talai likens to an Argentinian pesto.
"Yeah, it's amazing," he says.
Unlike some restaurants, Beachin' Shrimp purchases its shrimp with the shell still on, which Talai says makes a big difference in the end product.
"Having the shell on actually protects the meat, the integrity of the meat," he says. It made "a huge difference when we tested it side-by-side. ... (We) spent a lot of money on labor to go through those extra steps, but to me it was worth it."
Featuring Beachin' Shrimp's most expansive menu yet, the concept's third location includes more nonshrimp dishes for those with seafood allergies, or anyone who simply prefers their food to be land-based.
"We came up with this Curry Moco and ... we have burgers now, as well," says IDC Director of Operations Jerry Pastones.
With the latest location drawing a more local crowd, Pastones noted that they have also "tiered down the pricing a little bit ... to make it more appealing to everyone." Most entrees come in under $15.
An island atmosphere
Talai says service is just as important to him as the food, but says they've tried to stay away from an overly "corporate" atmosphere, instead promoting "island hospitality."
"We didn't want to make it robotic," he says. "The main thing is we wanted to hire people that had great personalities ... to have fun with the guests."
Years after the opening of the location that started it all – Beachin' Shrimp located at The Plaza in Tumon – Talai and Pastones say they've done their best to be the best in Guam's shrimp game. And Talai believes they've succeeded.
"We've made, in all three openings ... serious time commitments to spend day and night in the restaurant," he says. "Once we pull the trigger on a project, then it's like, 'Hey, let's work to be the best at what we do.'"
He adds, "It's really rewarding when you see a concept and a restaurant start from nothing. We've created ... a lot of opportunity for our staff, and a lot of our original staff have started out as bussers or line cooks or servers, (and) are now our management team. To us, that's been really rewarding."