Monday, November 10, 2008

Shuck's Fish House and Oyster Bar

Restaurant: Shuck's Fish House & Oyster Bar
Address: 1218 S. 119th Street
Genres: Seafood
Check Constraints: None.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Diet Coke ($1.95)
  • Shuck's Sampler ($16.95)
    • Fried Clam Strips
    • Fried Oysters
    • Fried Shrimp
    • Fried Calamari
    • Baby Cake Potatoes
  • Louisiana Gumbo, Cup ($3.95)
  • Catfish Po' Boy ($7.95)
    • Coleslaw
    • Baby Cake Potatoes
I am continually amazed that the transportation infrastructure in this country is good enough to get fresh fish delivered to a city and state several thousand miles away from the nearest salty body of water. Amazed, and made very hungry. Seafood was not something I liked in my youth (unless it was square, coated in batter, and deep-fried into unrecognizability) but as my palate's matured I can definitely say that I am way more into our finned friends than I used to be.

Shuck's, I am told, arose out of a Wednesday night food tasting that the Absolutely Fresh fish company used to hold. The food was apparently good enough they were turning away people until one of them had the bright idea to open a restaurant - and so they did. You actually enter the restaurant through the store proper, giving you a good opportunity to wander over and examine what may be your imminent meal. The restaurant itself emanates a very "crab shack" feel to it, with the tables being covered in butcher paper and the walls being made of faux planking, and despite being a little crowded it's a reasonably nice place for lunch.

The sampler platter was a heaping helping of fried. Shuck's boldly claims on their menu that they have "the thinnest breading in town", and the platter certainly helped their story - the breading on everything but the clam strips was thin and delightfully crunchy. The clam strips were still delightful, but the breading on them was rather thick. The platter came with ketchup, cocktail sauce, and some unnamed Asian-flavored concoction which went well with the shrimp but was not as good as the Kowloon sauce (as Mecha will later attest).

The gumbo had a very thick flavor to it. It was served with a dollop of rice in the middle, which was then dusted with what I think was filé powder. Both okra and chunks of sausage were visible in the bowl - and it was very much a bowl, despite me ordering a cup - but I think the dish had been cooked so long that all the flavors in it had melded into a single note of flavor. It wasn't bad, but it didn't make for much variety when eating. A couple jots of Louisiana-style hot sauce improved the bowl a lot, if only by lightening the flavor a little.

The catfish po' boy was very good. Their catfish was fried much the same was as the sampler, with very thin batter that still managed to give some good flavor to the fish - not that the fish needed much help. I'm pretty sure I've not had catfish that fresh since my grandmother used to fry up the ones my grandfather and I had caught that day. The po' boy came with remoulade sauce, and the menu claimed it came with "muffaleta relish", which I assume is meant to be the olive-based relish in the muffaletta sandwich. Sadly, I could find no trace of such, and instead recieved only chopped romaine lettuce in mine. Still, it was some good stuff and the remoulade paired well with the catfish. The whole deal came in a sub bun which had been quite liberally buttered and then grilled on a flat griddle, so that it tasted quite a bit like a correctly-done grilled cheese sandwich (minus the cheese). I will state for clarity, though: do not order this sandwich if you don't like the taste of grilled buttered bread. It is very prevalent in the sandwich and I had to adjust my perceptions of what I thought the sandwich should taste like before I really started to enjoy it. Again, though, some hot sauce really took the sandwich to the next level. But then, if you've been reading the blog for a while you are not surprised that I would say that in the slightest.

One last note before I pronounce verdict: the drinks here are a little more expensive than some places, but the glasses are gigantic, and there are free refills.

Schuck's is by no means a "classy" establishment (all the dishes are disposable), and you can find other seafood around town that's just as fresh (though not for retail sale), but the prices here for the quality absolutely cannot be beat. The speed at which you get food isn't shabby either. This has just become my first choice for good seafood.

  • Mr. Pibb($1.95)
  • Shrimp Alfredo($9.95)
  • Small Salad ($1.95)
  • Baby Cakes ($1.95)
Let's get this out in the open. I'm not a born seafood fan. I like seafood, as a general sort of thing, but it doesn't come naturally to me. Like I said in some of the sushi posts before, at some point while I'm eating a seafood heavy meal, my stomach will catch up with reality, wonder what the hell I am feeding it, and demand retribution. In spite of this, I like a fair variety of seafood. When I say in a review that my stomach couldn't take the dish after a point, it's not an indictment of the dish, it's my stomach being itself.

Okay, from there, I'm ready to proceed. The baby cakes are small potato patties, what we called "hash browns" (the non-homemade type) when I was a kid. They're small, they're fried and potatoey, and they're lightly herbed. Not bad, but not worth two freaking bucks, either.

The small salad is, for once, actually not bad. I wasn't a fan, because it's got large portions of tomato and onion, but it had NO iceberg lettuce, instead consisting mostly of romaine. If you're the sort, you can try their vidalia onion based house dressing. I went italian. If you're a salady sort, go ahead and grab it.

The shrimp alfredo was the second time in a row that I've had alfredo. Luckily, this one left the bitter at home, and had a decent amount of parmesan flavor. A superior alfredo to the ones I've been having lately. There was, however, a surprise in addition to the shrimp. Namely, artichoke hearts. Properly prepared, artichoke hearts are pretty good, I remember having something involving them at another italian restaurant a while back, with a bunch of other stuff in, and it was decent. In alfredo... not so much. It was a decidedly unwelcome burst of artichoke flavor, and it was really strong, like a kick in the teeth. the little tinge of flavor it added to the alfredo itself was good, but the bits of artichoke themselves got left on the plate. So did some of the shrimp, but again, that's because of my angry stomach, not because they weren't good. The shrimp were a little on the chewy side, so I'd probably grab something else, like the jambalaya I was considering instead, if I went back, but it's certainly better italian food than I expected to find in a seafood bar.

  • Diet Coke($1.95)
  • Clam Chowda ($3.95)
  • Jambalaya ($8.95)
The Appetizer Sampler was a good choice. My favorite bit was the calamari. It was lightly breaded and when dipped in the sweet & sour-like sauce that came with it was great.

For my entree, I went for the Clam Chowda and Jambalaya. The Clam Chowda was unfortunately lacking in clam flavor and the little bits of clam you usually find in there. It was also unfortunately abundant in potato chunks. It was decent enough, but I think they could have benefited from shifting around some of their ratios. The Jambalaya was a mixture of rice, andouille sausage, little bits of chicken, and spice and was a little drier than what I'd expected. The sausage was tasty, but the whole dish was way too peppery. I ended up putting on a good dallop of the Louisiana hot sauce to add some kick and cover up some of the pepper.

Overall, I look forward to going back. All of the items on the appetizer sampler were delicious. I popped a couple of ND's alfredo shrimps and they were cooked perfectly. And the po' boys looked scrumptious. However, I won't be getting again what I ordered this time.


  • Fried Kowloon Shrimp ($8.95)
  • Louisiana Gumbo ($3.95)
  • Trout Amandine ($10.95)
So, I got the quite expensive (for a handful of shrimp) Fried Kowloon Shrimp. Now, they were well done, certainly, and that's not a problem. But the thing of most note, and a positive note at that, was that they came drizzled with (and served with) a sauce with complexity and spice and sweetness. Upon table reflection, it might have been two sauces, but it wasn't completely sure. Similarly, the sampler came with a sauce kinda like it, but again, the table disagreed. Whatever I got was the best, in the group opinion.

The sampler, by the way, was a good variety of fried stuffs, of a decent size for 4 or 5 people. The clam strips were the oddest, with a little bit of grindy crunchiness that slightly turned me off from the otherwise decent flavor. The gumbo was indeed thick and I agree that it looked like a dusting of file atop rice atop the main gumbo.

Now, like ND, I am not a huge fish person traditionally (although am much better with random seafood), but a well cooked fish (or well uncooked fish, in sushi's case), can appeal to my tastebuds, and this was a very well cooked fish. It fell apart as it should, the skin was edible and not a huge ugly burst of fishy flavor, and the almonds provided a little crunch. My biggest problem with the trout amandine was a thorough lack of almond flavor. Not even really subtle, just not there. I'd like a little more to add to the flavor (although not too much), but it was still well done, and it gives me a bit more confidence to try some of their other fish-based offering. It came with some veggies that were covered with powered parmesean to the point of reminding me of alfredo. Okay, but I wasn't quite willing to finish them over the fish or other things.

Ultimately a very positive and relatively fast experience, and there's plenty more to try. Maybe even room for dessert next time. (Also, I'm making sure to put the word 'dessert' in almost every entry, to anger Cham when I mispell it (because it amuses me) until I don't.)


  • Shrimp Po' Boy ($8.95)
    • Coleslaw
    • Baby Cake Potatoes
All the fried appetizer items were quite tasty. None of it was rubbery. I didn't find the grittiness in the clam that Mecha did. They were actually one of my favorites. The fried calamari was probably the best calamari I've had, and even though I haven't had it from many places, I think I'd be hard pressed to find much better. The others were good, but didn't catch my attention as much as the clam and calamari. Due to the size of the platter, I'd say it's a great appetizer to share with four or more.

The po' boy was good as well. There were fewer individual shrimp on it than I expected to see, but they were enough. The shrimp were breaded, and it had the shredded lettuce and a sauce. I can't remember exactly what the sauce was. The bread was fairly prevalent in my sandwich as well. That bread to shrimp ratio would be my only complaint, but it's a minor one. The sandwich was filling and tasty. The coleslaw is worth mentioning as well. This may be the best coleslaw I've had in a restaurant for a long time. It was the creamy style served chilled. I also liked having the baby cake potatoes as a side instead of the usual fries.

Though the dining area is a bit cramped, I will definitely come back. The good news is that they are opening an new restaurant further out west. Hopefully space won't be an issue there.


Lirazel said...

Oh look, a comment!

What, none of you tried the raw oysters? I guess I need to come to Omaha and check this place out myself.

NinjaDebugger said...

I think we decided they were best done on a day when they were discounted, which is not thursday.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered this blog, and gotta say I'm totally jazzed about what you guys (gals?) are doing. I've been looking for a tool like this for a long time.

I, too, recently tried Shuck's (it's not too far from where I work), and highly recommend the clam roll. It was a bit heavy on the bread, but the flavor was fantastic.

Keep up the good work! Y'all have just earned yourselves a bookmark!