The loaded shrimp cocktail at Aw Shucks. Courtesy Aw Shucks

Seafood

A Sort-Of Newcomer Has a Question: Why Didn’t Y’all Tell Me Aw Shucks Is Quite Good?

This is a Dallas gem and, because of how long it’s been here, perhaps under-heralded amid all the city’s flashy newcomers.

You may be good and familiar with our longish-running First Bite column on SideDish in which we rush—or lallygag—to the newest and newish openings in town for a nosh. This here isn’t that. This is a late arrival, a Last Bite, if you will. It is the opposite of influential because by its very nature I’m last to the table. Call it un-fluential. Call it Hey, Nobody Even Asked! (Stay tuned for that column; it will be just as irreverent. Oh, I mean irrelevant. Apologies, slip of the keystrokes.) But I wanted to come here and say—only because it seemed like no one was saying it aloud—that Aw Shucks is very quite good!

The one on Greenville Avenue isn’t the only Aw Shucks to have ever shucked. There is one in Lewisville and another in Frisco and then there are Big Shucks on Mockingbird Lane and one more in Richardson. But of all the Shucks, both Aw and Big, the Lower Greenville location evokes the most seafood shack quality (picnic tables where presumably a SMU student etched a mustang into the wood; out of the sun enough to eat seafood in the summer outdoors but still hot enough that you’re obligated to down the frozen marg).

I’ve been to some of the newer spots in town. Some of those restaurants, too, serve ceviche. They were fine. None of them, as of yet, have delivered such a simply well-done version as Aw Shucks—and for less than 10 bucks. Mississippi catfish is diced into pieces small enough to fit onto a triangle of fried tortilla chip without falling down my shirt. (See? Tasty and a savvy engineering move.) Marinated in lime juice and a smattering of herbs, the ceviche arrives to the table quickly under a few avocado slices and a dusting of paprika-cayenne, Old Bay-esque seasoning.

The shrimp cocktail here is not merely a bowl of shrimp with vermillion cocktail sauce. Oh, no. It is a chilled pint glass of Bay shrimp suspended in a bright amalgamation of red onion, diced avocado, tomato, cilantro, and serrano peppers. Get it “spicy” because it’s really not that spicy. Besides, you’re sitting outside. It’s, like, 90 degrees. You’re sweating anyway, so whatever spice-induced mode befalls you will go undetected.

Now, Gulf oysters are not my favorite kind of bivalve. It’s nothing against the meatier, buttery-er mollusk, but I’m simply partial to the more diminutive counterparts—Pacific Northwest Kumamotos, Shigokus, Kusshis that deliver brine rather than butter. And yet, I inhaled a half-dozen of these Gulfy suckers with lemon juice and hot sauce.

The crab bites arrive so hot and freshly fried that you might sting your tongue in such a way that you become a masochist. I don’t make the rules.

Allow me to point out, now, that I have only covered the Good Stuff portion of the menu, which is the top section of Aw Shucks’ greatest hits. There are still things are either Boiled, Fried, or Grilled (or are po’boys and soups).

All this to ponder, Am I late to the Aw Shucks party? Well, yes, by well over a quarter century. For posterity, I am 38 years late. Bob Peterson opened the oyster bar in 1983 (this, in my defense, predates my Dallas arrival and very existence). And since the ’80s, Aw Shucks has been a local fixture, as evidenced by the line I’ve witnessed many times cruising down Greenville Avenue.

Of all the recommendations folks lobbed at me, Aw Shucks was not one of them. Perhaps it’s a curse of being so obvious, such a longtime staple that it flew under the recommendation radar.

I will forgive you all this one time.

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