Empty Nets

Here’s a catch that’s not a keeper

I walked out gladly empty-handed that night, and on my next visit, I would almost walk out.

As my dining partner and I nibbled at an inoffensive and nondescript artichoke dip recommended by the server (they would do well to use crisps instead of soft and bland pita slices), I noted a table card guaranteeing a quick lunch for the workday crowd: Basically, the diners give their full order after they receive their drinks, and Willy's aims to get the food out in 12 minutes. The check is dropped during the meal (no rush intended), and customers can get back to work on time. Hell, the menu even says, "Where busy people come for a quick lunch!" I found lunchtime was not that easy.

The first transgression was in my co-diner's fried jumbo shrimp. They were somewhat puny for so-called jumbos, and they were overcooked, but worse, they had not been deveined. True, some people have no problem with the little black tract of digested material running down the back of a shrimp, and I suppose if the shrimp hadn't been scored to begin with it wouldn't have been as noticeable. But they had, so the black line was seemingly highlighted through the airy batter and, in several cases, hanging loose into and even out of the coating. While deveining may be a personal choice, depending largely on the size of the shrimp and possible grittiness that may come from leaving the vein in, this was just a case of good ol' didn't-give-a-shit laziness.

Tow it to shore: Saltwater Willy's is all washed up.
Tom Jenkins
Tow it to shore: Saltwater Willy's is all washed up.

Location Info

Map

Saltwater Willy's Seafood & Steakhouse

8442 Walnut Hill Lane
Dallas, TX 75231-3807

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Northeast Dallas

Details

Crispy calamari $8.49
Crab-stuffed mushrooms $7.99
Jumbo shrimp (lunch) $8.99
Port Isabel crab cake $17.99
Atlantic salmon $14.99
Cozumel fish tacos $12.99
Broiled Gulf mahi-mahi $14.99
Closed Location

I opted to correct my fried mahi-mahi mistake and ordered the fish as a broiled fillet. This was a better selection (and one of which our server approved after having replied with "Um, I'm not gonna lie to you, I wouldn't" when I inquired about the broiled sea scallops). The white fish flaked to my fork with ease and was simply seasoned with garlic in white wine but was uninspired overall. The fresh vegetables were warmed, almost raw carrot sticks, broccoli florets and one slice of yellow squash.

And then we sat there. For a long time. We had not received our check or even seen our server (or the roving manager) in about 20 minutes when the couple to our left decided to leave their table to inquire why it was taking so long to ladle soup. It would be 10 more before we ever saw an employee. The restaurant was, once again, near-empty, so this was alarming, not to mention a long way off from the quick lunch experience we were promised.

As we sat, waiting, mocked by the Willy's trademark happy crustacean and promises of "great food...and old-fashioned good time," the wailing guitar solo of "Freebird" blared overhead (I'm not kidding). It was then that—and I think this sums up Saltwater Willy's effectively—I actually thought, "I just want to get as far away from here as I can. But I'm stuck here. Listening to this. Looking at plates of B-grade, picked-over food. And, great, my glass is fucking empty."

8442 Walnut Hill Lane, 214-265-1708.Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday,11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. $$-$$$

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