There are shack-like establishments up and down Cape Cod, many serving all of the clam chowder, lobster rolls and fried fish one could want. Unfortunately, the desire for these foods continues even when you’re not on the Cape, and you’re as far away as Dallas.
So, lowering the bar a bit, there’s suddenly a necessity to find an environment that serves up this underestimated cuisine. Throw in a tall mug of shrimp cocktail, and you’ll get even more than you yearned for.
Big Shucks Oyster Bar on Mockingbird Lane has everything expected of a shack serving fresh seafood: a tabletop you don’t even bother wondering if it’s clean, a person with a smile hand-writing your order from behind a counter, and nowhere to sit on a Saturday night.
The menu, printed on boards above the register, boasts a house specialty—shrimp cocktail.
The mug balancing this heaping mound of shrimp is plenty for two. The shrimp is packed into a sauce of cilantro, tomatoes, Serrano peppers and onion. You get an option of mild, medium or spicy—the latter could use even more of a kick. But the taste has enough of a kick to be complemented by a chunk of avocado.
A portion of the menu is dedicated to baskets of fried food, all of which come with some steak-cut fries that need a good shaking from the Corona bottle containing salt at each table.
Whatever else is fried next to the potatoes should be fine, though. The fried catfish is flaky and salty with a thin, fine coating. You can get your shrimp in the same coating, or go for the sweeter option of coconut.
The best thing about the coconut shrimp is simply the freshness. Each shrimp doesn’t have a bit of meat without a flake of unsweetened coconut covering it. The hint of sweetness is fine on its own, not overpowering the shrimp taste, and keeps it somewhat savory. There’s a sweet chutney in a small plastic cup to the side, though, that will complete the taste to a delightful excess.
If you’re with someone who’s willing to share a meal, and you’re looking for healthier options here, you luck out with the Summer Platter, complete with crab claws, shrimp (which you will clean yourself), sausage, new potatoes and chunks of corn on the cob.
While the clarified butter on the same tray could probably lift up any fresh seafood’s taste, this Cajun seasoning of spice and sweetness on these shrimp and crab won’t slow you down. (The cracking of the shells on crab claws and sweeping off the heads of the shrimp will, however.)
There are other places to get fine crab served with clarified butter for dipping. But being able to stop here for a quick lunch of cracking into some sweet crab with a kick is convenient and savory.
The spicy powder combats the natural sweetness of the corn, which makes it one of the few things that will remain on the metal tray the meal comes on.
While the casual, seafood dining atmosphere might surprise you as you’re sitting so close to Lakewood, you’re in for a real astonishment when you leave. At the cash register, you won’t hand over a receipt for your meal. Instead, you’ll be asked, “What did you have today?”
Running on the honor system, this place obviously trusts its customers. The risk of lying just isn’t worth it: They’re sure to figure it out, and you won’t be able to go back for those seasoned crab legs.
Big Shucks Oyster Bar
Location: 6232 E. Mockingbird Lane in Dallas, 75214, 214-887-6353 (See website for the other three locations.)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Ambiance: Windows around seating area provide plenty of natural light; with the crowd, it can get loud; there’s also a spacious patio overlooking Mockingbird Lane.
Alcohol: Beer and wine served