Shucker’s Oyster Bar sits on a strip along north Market Street not known for quality dining. To be fair, from Hampstead to downtown, there probably aren’t five restaurants which get my stamp of approval. But Shucker’s rests between a McDonald’s and a KFC, so it is the best thing there. But I’m damning with faint praise.
Shucker’s is cleanly appointed, with a dark but pleasant enough atmosphere. The staff is friendly to a fault. The beer specials are quite cheap. And the menu is diverse enough to provide some hope. Still, my dining experience was subpar.
I opened with the honey chipolte shrimp. I take some of the blame for this one. I was hungry and wanted to order quickly. I didn’t notice that the shrimp were fried. I trust very few chefs to fry shrimp. Fried shrimp have a tendency to lose their texture; they become mealy and unpleasant. Such was the fate of the poor crustaceans on my plate. Soft, with none of the discernible textural qualities of shrimp and with underseasoned breading, they came across oily.
The sauce was a bit uneven. Some bites carried the smokey chipolte and were much more pleasant. Others were less spicy, and the honey proved cloying without the counterbalance.
I moved on to a Jack Daniels honey-glazed salmon with an added crab cake. The sauce was a touch too sweet, but substantially better than the one which came before it. Much more evenly balanced, the charcoal of the whiskey did an admirable job of cutting the sugar. Unfortunately, the salmon was brutally overcooked. (I know I’m in trouble when a server doesn’t ask how I’d like my salmon prepared.) The fish flaked off in unforgiving dried bites.
The crab cake, too, disappointed. Though there were a few mouthfuls of hearty meat, breading won the day and the whole thing felt mushy on the tongue. A nice sear on either side provided some depth, but a crab cake which is more cake than crab cannot be redeemed. The tomato-basil topping featured under-ripe tomatoes and overly potent basil. The herb overwhelmed the seasoning of the crab itself.
Shucker’s offers a choice of side dishes. I paid a small charge to upgrade to the “Grown Up Mac and Cheese.” For the life of me, I have no idea what qualifies it as grown-up. Soft noodles in a soupy cheese blend didn’t exactly reek of maturity to me. Apparently, putting bread crumbs on macaroni and cheese is no longer suitable for minors.
Shucker’s does one thing well: hush puppies. Rich with onion and corn, fried to a perfect golden brown—and crispy on the outside with a soft interior—they’re far and away the only offerings that will get me back in the door.
For reasons passing my own understanding, I took a chance on dessert. The brownie is gooey and fudgy, but microwaved to a temperature far beyond the tolerance of the human mouth. By the time it cooled, the ice cream had become a sauce.
I will give points for the addition of candied pecans. They added a nice crunch without overpowering the chocolate.
Shucker’s is reasonably priced for the quantity but not for the quality. If I simply counted the calories I got for my money, then I got a good deal. Since I didn’t particularly care for any of it, I can’t say I got my money’s worth.
Under normal circumstances, I’d call this a surprise. If someone told me before walking into the restaurant that the service would be great and the bread wonderful, I’d assume I was in for a real treat. Not so much this time.
Shucker’s Oyster Bar and Grill
6828 Market Street
Mon.-Sun., 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.