Mr. Mike Wiemers is at the helm of Johnson City’s newest restaurant, a popular seafood and oyster bar chain out of Wilmington, North Carolina. Emphasis is on “Surf”, as in oysters (raw, steamed, char-grilled or fried), seafood (broiled or fried), plus shrimp (broiled, fried or boiled). Then there’s eastern Carolina’s version of “Turf,” as in chicken (wings or tenders, broiled or fried.) There’s a convenient and capacious bar to belly up to that supplies fermented liquid accompaniment in both artisan and domestic varieties, or teas and soft drinks if your taste runs in that direction.
The dine-around bunch and I arrived just before five fifteen and were immediately joined by our server Jyssica who conducted us to our table. Shuckin’ Shack diners sit at tables that have a big hole in the middle. As Jyssica explained, the hole is for the bucket. The bucket is for the shucked-out oyster shells. Shuckin’ Shack recycles used oyster shells, which are cleaned, then returned to the sea, helping current oyster beds make new oysters.
Bucket in place, we all turned to our menus and the goodies depicted within.
I immediately spotted the Low Country Boil ($14.99) a steamed mix of peel and eat shrimp, spicy beef sausage, red potatoes and corn on the cob. My dining partner decided a combination basket of fried oysters and shrimp with potato wedges ($11.99) was her choice.
The Retiree had a hankering for fish & chips ($10.99), while the Dieter chose the shrimp version of the Shack’s seafood sliders ($10.99).
The Carnivore, already burdened with the aftereffects of a late lunch, spotted and tacos on a patron’s plate, ($10.99) and said “An oyster and a shrimp taco, please.” Last of all, I asked Jyssica to bring us a plate of crab balls ($6.99) as the table’s appetizer.
While we were ordering, the Shuckin’ Shack staff was handling the start of the dinner rush, the wait starting out at ten minutes, which is how long our supper took to reach the table.
The crab balls were good, but more breading than crab, and about an inch across.
My dining partner was very pleased with her fried oyster and shrimp basket, describing the oysters as “perfection,” being both sizable and well-formed and covered with just the right amount of breading. The fried shrimp, though good, took the silver medal, with the potato wedges taking the bronze.
The Retiree’s fish & chips had big filets of cod batter-dipped and fried until golden brown, paired with a big stack of fresh-cut French fries. With a little salt and cider vinegar for seasoning, the Retiree was in heaven.
Regarding her slider order, the Dieter observed that topping what amounted to two dinner rolls with three fried shrimp each was what she called an appetizer, not a main course, and at eleven bucks a throw, three sliders was the magic number, not two. She found the coleslaw to be good, the fries less so.
The Carnivore, good companion that he is, promptly shared half of both the fried oyster and the shrimp taco with the Dieter along with some kind words, and all was right with the world once again. The Carnivore found both tacos to be quite tasty, though being the flour variety, could have used a second tortilla wrapper for each; a single tortilla, once soggy, tears easily, dropping taco contents onto the table or worse, in your lap.
While all this was going on, I was being very quiet, just me and my Low Country Boil. I have enjoyed a version of the Boil from Maine (a rock-bound coastal clambake) to Louisiana (three pots worth poured out onto a newspaper-ed Church picnic table to feed the flock.) As uniquely American a meal as you are likely to find. For mine, take a half pound of good-sized shrimp, to which was added chunks of spicy beef sausage (kielbasa?) along with a double handful of small red potatoes and some corn on the cob. Cook the mix in boiling water laced with Old Bay seasoning, then simmer until needed. When served, break the corn into two cobbets for easier handling. Keep the can of Old Bay spice within reach. Make sure you have plenty of beer or tea or whatever you drink, and keep a stack of napkins nearby. You’ll need them. Shuckin’ Shack’s version was very good indeed. Plenty of good-sized peel and eat shrimp making a savory blend of flavors with the spicy beef sausage, the firm but tasty red potatoes and the warm sweetness of the fresh corn. The spicy bouquet of Old Bay adds just that special something that brings it all together.
Shuckin’ Shack does other platters (from $27.99) the size of which depends on how hungry you are. They also serve chicken wings ($5.99 for five, $13.99 for eight) with an array of seasonings and pepper sauces designed to test just how fireproof your tonsils really are. Salads (side order or house) are also available. And then there are the oysters, raw, steamed or char-grilled, the clams steamed and on the half shell, and (ah, bliss) snow crab legs. All of these items come with a daily market price, so be sure to check the big board when you place your order.
As we were leaving, Mike Wiemers was busy greeting and seating hungry patrons. If his friendly smile and hard work are any indication, Shuckin’ Shack will be a neighbor of ours (and yours) for a long time to come.
The Shuckin’ Shack
612 Lyle Street
Sun-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri-Sat 11 a.m. – Midnight
Available on Facebook
Credit cards accepted