Before visiting Shucks!, decide what kind of diner you are.
If you seek Gulf Coast comfort food, this is your place. However, if you favor light entrées and nuanced flavors, you might be disappointed.
Shucks! features a menu full of oysters, shrimp and crab all dutifully prepared to satisfy Louisiana taste buds.
An institution in Abbeville, Shucks! opened late last year at 18135 E. Petroleum Drive in Baton Rouge. Housed in the former Le Creole off Highland Road, Shucks! is gleefully decorated with bright Louisiana folk art, and Cajun and zydeco music are mixed into the playlist.
Our main courses were tasty and satisfying, but at times Shucks! is overly salty and pricey.
During a lunchtime meal, we ordered half portions, a size that would equal a lunch plate at most restaurants. But the price point was a few dollars higher for nearly everything compared with similar establishments.
As the name implies, the restaurant is known for oysters, and along with the raw and fried varieties, Shucks! has flavored charbroiled oysters.
To try them all, we chose the super sampler ($13 for a half-dozen), which features one each of the restaurant’s signature flavor combinations. Some are superb. Others are overly seasoned.
The roughneck, an oyster covered with cream, cheese, bacon, jalapenos and bell peppers, somehow complements the salty meat of the oyster well. Yet the toppings of the candied oyster — feta and blue cheese with a sugar cane pepper glaze — overpowered the briny meat.
For my entrée, the Louisiana blue point crab cakes ($12.50 for a half-portion) tasted great, straddling the line between well-seasoned and rich. Topped with a roasted bell pepper and dill cream sauce that added some creaminess, the crab cake’s taste stood out, but it wasn’t perfect. The grilled cake came out mushy instead of crispy. However, my side of a scoop of potato salad turned out to be a great choice.
A guest tried the pan-broiled shrimp ($13 for a half-order — 10 small shrimp). Grilled in olive oil and butter with garlic, lemon and parsley, the shrimp were fresh and lightly seasoned.
The accompanying side she chose, the grilled vegetables, came drenched in a seasoning that choked out all of the broccoli, squash and zucchini’s flavor.
Another guest ordered the half-and-half platter of fried shrimp and oysters ($16.50 for a half-order — six shrimp and six oysters). He said the oysters were perfectly fried, but overall, the plate was too salty.
His side of grilled new potatoes suffered the same overly spicy fate as the grilled vegetables. He said it was like a “college experiment, like someone just found Slap Ya Mama’s seasoning and butter and slathered them on before putting them in the oven.”
On our pre-meal house salads, we all chose the house-made sugarcane vinaigrette, which was spicy and sweet. I enjoyed the dressing, but I only dip my fork in it. One guest who poured the dressing over his salad said it was so spicy his “tongue felt charred.”
The oysters and seafood at Shucks! are enjoyable and fresh. But the restaurant doesn’t differentiate itself among a field serving Louisiana staples.