On Your Honor
Big Shucks is a shack of torture. Not only do they make you stand in line to order food and beverages at the counter, they force you to remember every single item, from the gumbo to the full pound of steamed snow crab legs to the number of wine margaritas you slurped. Then, when you've finished your meal, you are required to recite the components verbatim so that a person behind the counter can add it up to let you know what the check is. You may think it's swell that this restaurant is anchored on the honor system, but think how unnerving this process can be after a few beers and wine coolers (aren't they extinct?).
Big Shucks, an offshoot of Aw Shucks on Greenville Avenue, is bargain seafood camp that has as many fresh and tasty finds as it has pitfalls. A lighted sign outside says "fresh when flashing" and lists the day's specials.
It's an understatement to say Big Shucks is casual. Everything is served on tin platters, and in the case of the crab legs, two are provided so that you have a place to toss the remains. The crabmeat is delicious, firm and succulent, though it tastes a little too much like crab boil. Drawn butter is served in a little paper cup that begins to leak right around the fourth leg.
The dozen oysters were also good: fresh and clean with a good sea-washed flavor. Big Shucks has an island in the middle of the restaurant where you can pick up things like salt and pepper, extra saltines, plastic forks, rolls of paper towels, and lemons and ketchup and horseradish sauce for blending your own cocktail sauce for things like boiled shrimp. Big Shucks has cold boiled shrimp, good shrimp, moist shrimp, the kind of shrimp that often get served soggy from aging in the bottom of a cooler filled with ice water. Not here. A healthy basket of french fries, thick and moist, were good, though they could have been a little crisper.
Fresh fish specials kind of floundered a little. Sea bass, a recommendation by one of the order grabbers up front, was greasy and tasted a little too much like Old Bay seasoning. A side of rice was oily, and the side of veggies--zucchini, squash, etc.--was soggy.
But the servers who come around to see if you need more lemon or beer are helpful and friendly.
Big Shucks is parked in a space that used to be JoJos Restaurant, a coffee shop that always smelled like urinal deodorant cakes (maybe that scent comes in aerosol cans). It doesn't smell like that anymore. The interior is painted red, white and blue, which seem to be the avocado and harvest gold of this incipient millennium. The banquettes look to be the same as when JoJos had the place. There are picnic tables both inside and out, and the outside portion of the restaurant is demarcated with a chain-link fence, sort of the fish-shack version of romantic al fresco dining. While in that romantic frame of mind, remember to bring a note pad and a pen for easy tally-keeping. While it's nice they offer dining on the honor system, a sign on the door reminds that Big Shucks prosecutes big shirkers.
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