I knew I would love this place. I really did. It had all the right possible ingredients I tend to like. No.frills.local.oyster.bar.seafood.joint. And boy, did I love it!
I’ve tried to go before. It just has crazy hours (to this girl at least. I have never lived in a city where places can actually afford to stay open only during lunch!!!). Oh, and before I forget, it’s cash only!
As part of some restaurant homework that I *have* to do (more on that another time), I finally made it there during normal hours. I was running between meetings across town, and I happened to catch Abe also running across town at a time where we both could grab lunch. Shell is behind a Subway off of South Monroe (114 East Oakland Avenue), in a random back alley parking lot attached to a mechanic in a former gas station. Don’t question it. Just make a parking spot for yourself and get in there.
And now I’m actually reading the hours on the handy menu they gave me when they heard it was my first time there. And in fact it is not as restricted as I thought! M-Tr: 11-6; Friday: 11-7; Saturday: 11-6. So, there you go. Lots of great seafood eating time!
Practically every person who walked into the restaurant was greeted by name, and everyone else was quickly hello-ed. In general, this place dishes up incredible good ol’ southern charm service (see what I did there?). The guys serving us genuinely wanted to make sure we were comfortable and had what we needed.
We sat at the bar, but there were tables to sit at as well. I was immediately served up a dozen raw oysters on a tray with homemade cocktail sauce and the other normal items to help one eat delicious, delicious oysters. Oysters are just starting to come back into season (ish), so they are small right now across town. But these ones were tasty and fresh . I’m used to getting Apalachicola oysters around these parts, but we were told these were from Spring Creek. Abe swears that the oysters tasted less salty than ones we have had before. Maybe it’s the location they came from. Maybe it’s in his head.
Moving on, the cocktail sauce was a little more on the BBQ sauce side of flavour, rather than a ketchup flavour, with only very mild horseradish. If you like the nasal kick, you will want to get extra horseradish.
We also ordered some steamed Cajun spiced shrimp. They were very fresh tasting, and the seasoning a touch spicy and finger licking tasty.
Finally, we got a lunch basket with fried oysters (my bad, I meant to say scallops, but I got confused while eating oysters and ordering at the same time). The lunch basket came with the half and half tea I was drinking (score!), hush puppies, fries and coleslaw. As a note, there were lots of other side options other than what we got, like beans, or cheesy grits, or macaroni salad, or you get the point.
Now, I’m normally a pretty healthy, non-fried food eater, and I usually like my seafood not fried. But I will always go to Shell’s if I have that hankering. Because they did fried good y’all (did I use that right?). The batter on the oysters was crispy, thin and flavourful. Not oil soggy at all. They must heat their oil nice and hot and keep it clean. Or they have some other trick. Because, damn. The fries, certainly a frozen variety, also tasted awesome because of the same great oil treatment! And the coleslaw was creamy, but not too mayo-ey (says Abe, that doesn’t exist to me, the lover of mayo), and of the type I always remember from my childhood of family treat nights of KFC. The hush puppies were probably the most disappointing thing, they were okay and just typical. No fun added flavours inside.
Overall, check it out folks! It’s worth a drive for lunch, I think it’s the best seafood in town. I want more now. And the service was so friendly and welcoming, that doubly makes me want more now! Just as a note, this was not a cheap *lunch*, but it was well priced seafood. And we got a lot of seafood, and frankly seafood isn’t cheap anywhere. But this will be fresh seafood, well worth the lunch treat! I’ve had more expensive, and much worse. Okay, I really want more now.