Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Go to America - Eat in a Shack

No, this is not a Michael Moore movie about poverty in the land of plenty but Europeans, listen-up, no matter how counter-intuitive it may seem, some of the finest dining in America can be found in shacks. Sometimes, there isn’t even a shack, just some old tables by the side of the road and most of these roads, as Michael and Jane Stern, authors of Road Food, point out, are “near the ocean, the lake or river – in other words, near the home of what they serve”. A good fish shack in America is a “finger lickin”, “sleeves-up” “flip-flop” kind of place which can reconfirm ones faith in American food and the joys of America’s peerless informality.

The Shark Shack, on Atlantic Beach in North Carolina is just such a place. It’s both a “Drive-In” restaurant (where you can experience the unique American phenomenon of eating meals in your car) and a place where you can park your surf board, sit at picnic tables and eat “the catch of the day” either in the form of a sandwich or a platter. There are clams strips, grouper (a local fish) bites, fish tacos and a shrimp burger. For non-fish eaters, there are hot dogs, hamburgers, steak sandwiches and lots of chicken.

We ate lunch there last week and everything was delicious, plentiful, inexpensive and served by a blond, long-legged friendly college student with perfect teeth.When we asked if we could have our fish grilled, not fried, the charming student with perfect teeth said of course we could. The fact that our grouper sandwiches were fresh, succulent and only cost $6.69 blew this cynical pseudo-European away. Surprisingly, the Shark Shack has a liquor license and a pitcher of beer will only set you back $7. At night, there is live music and if you’re not hungry, signs invite you to bring your own chair, sit outside, watch the stars, have a drink and enjoy the music.

Shark Shack Revisited

Sadly, we also ate there this Saturday and had a completely different experience. Our waitress was also young and cute but so stupid it was ridiculous. Everything we ordered was messed up and the food wasn't as good as before. How can one place be so good and so bad? I blame it on the weekend (the bad experience) versus mid-week (the great experience). McDonalds may be consistently awful but alas, not all authentic places are also consistent.

The Shark Shack
Fort Macon Road and South Durham Street
Atlantic Beach, North Carolina
(next to the Beach Tavern)
Tel: 252 726-3313

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