Tucked in between two gravel parking lots is an inconspicuous-looking building with an old sign reading, “Jim Shaw’s Seafood Restaurant.” The inside was just what one might expect from any old seafood joint.
Marianna Bacallao, another Cluster writer who came with me, described the small dining area as “sparsely decorated with pelicans, whales, trout and a wood carving of a boat captain.”
Jim Shaw’s sits just seven minutes away from Mercer on Vineville Avenue, across from the Red Rooster Cafe. This place felt like a small family restaurant — one that served good old seafood, in a great old-fashioned way.
No patron of Jim Shaw’s will leave hungry.
Everyone’s plate was served with good portions of the entree and a huge order of a side, and if that wasn’t enough, they even give you some jumbo hush puppies.
Beyond being plentiful, the sides were great. I could not resist their cheese grits, and I was given a generous bowl that was warm and soft.
The hushpuppies were also delicious.
“The hush puppies were the best ones I have had in a long time and reminded me of the ones my grandmother makes from scratch,” said Brittany Wiggins, a freshman who also came along on our dining outing.
While the side salad was simple and unremarkable, their house dressing is worth talking about. It is a Catalina dressing — a tangy tomato, oil and vinegar-based mixture that balanced a sweet sugary taste with the sharp flavors of onions and vinegar.
The combination plate I ordered came with a fried catfish fillet and four grilled shrimp over rice. The catfish did not have the foul freshwater taste that it can have if not cooked properly. It was flaky, and had a nice and light fish flavor. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and tasted fresh.
Combination plate with fired catfish fillet and grilled shrimp, and a side of cheese grits and hushpuppies. Served with lemon, tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. A delicious homestyle seafood meal.
Wiggins decided that on top of all the food she had, she needed something sweet. So, we tried a chocolate brownie with ice cream. The warm brownie with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate syrup was enough to satisfy all of our sweet tooths.
The Battered Fries
Even though I myself did not order fries, my friends were more than happy to share some with me. The fries definitely distinguish themselves in their thick crispy battering.
The insides were so warm and soft, it almost felt like I was eating fried mashed potatoes. With a crunchy outer layer. These fries had great textural variation that made me unable to stop munching away at them.
My friends, however, were not so convinced. “The breading was too much, and it took away from the flavor of the fries,” Wiggins said.
We arrived at Jim Shaw’s Seafood Grill right as it opened at 5 p.m., and we were seated promptly. After that, though, while there was never any particularly long wait, it seemed every bit of the service just took a little longer than it should have.
There was a slight wait to get our drinks, and then we sat around waiting to order for a while.We also waited a significant amount of time to get our entrees and dessert. On top of that, we were ready for the checks for quite some time before they were given to us.
My friends did not think it was particularly bad, but I personally thought the service was poor.
“The service was hospitable and helpful, but definitely a bit on the slow side.” said Elizabeth Tammi, another friend who accompanied us to dinner.
Even though I got the early bird special, I ended up spending almost 20 bucks on my meal. I definitely left full, and my seafood craving was satisfied. Still, I felt like it was a little pricy.
The non-seafood plates are naturally less expensive. Tammi’s grilled chicken sandwich plate was less than 10, which is a great price for the amount of food.
The combination of huge portions and ample fried things makes Jim Shaw’s satisfying, but I couldn’t help but feel guilty about what I had just eaten. They were heavy on the seasoning, especially the salt.
“I could practically feel the sheer amount of salt cooked into everything,” Tammi said.
Good seafood is the kind of thing which warms people’s souls, and often reminds them of their family’s home cooking. Sometimes, you cannot put a price on such an experience. Jim Shaw’s is the kind of place for long conversations with family and friends.
The seafood experience is worth a try if you have the time and money.