She Said: I had an MRI for my broken-down back at 2 p.m., so I wanted to go out for lunch and “eat my feelings.” (By the way, my feelings are often delicious.) We had never been to this place right off I-40 in a Hotelania neighborhood of Conway, though we’d driven by it many times since it opened early last year. The name seemed like it would offer tasty calories up for my emotional-eating needs.
He Said: I had a vague notion that such a place existed, and perhaps even noticed it momentarily on my way to review a movie at Cinemark, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone mention they had eaten here or planned to, so it was an unlooked for adventure to pull into the parking lot, with Jones and that hungry look in her eyes.
She Said: This place feels beachy inside, reminding me of some of the places we like to haunt on Highway 30-A when we go to Rosemary Beach, Fla., and the surrounding towns. Chairs are bright orange, and there are browns and a sea-green to even out the brightness of the seating. We went around 11:30 on a Monday morning, and it was quiet at the time. While it never got super busy that day, it picked up before we left. There are large flat-screen TVs, three in a row in the area we occupied near the bar, all tuned to different sports, and I can imagine this would be a fun place to watch a game, if I watched games. And, yes, there is a bar, which I didn’t know before we arrived. The vibe over all is relaxed and fun, and I felt chill for our visit.
He Said: There were even containers that looked like sand buckets on the tables. If you plopped me inside this place and asked me to guess its location, I’d have said Florida. Or maybe Hawaii. Next time I go I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Because I can.
She Said: As mentioned, I didn’t know if this was a wet or dry eatery. One can never assume in “damp” Conway. But, yes, Shucked offers beer (those buckets on the tables are for beers, Ruud, not sand!), bottled and on tap, Barefoot wines, and specialty cocktails. I went ahead and had a glass (or two) of cabernet, and it was nice with lunch and only $4 per glass!
He Said: So I had, as per usual, an unsweetened iced tea, that was refilled any time I wanted. But I’m curious about that Barefoot wine. Does that mean they stopped on the grapes with their bare feet before bottling it? Is there an “I Love Lucy” moment here?
She Said: Why don’t you Google that, Ruud? If you, gentle readers, are into oysters, you can get fresh or cooked ones here, and there’s even a deal on Mondays for $1 fresh oysters. We do not eat such things, so we declined this offer, but I had a hard time choosing what to try for my entrée. I was really interested in the crab cakes, and Shucked offers both an appetizer and an entrée, but in the end, I chose the cat fish po’ boy because I was in the mood for fried food stuffed into carbs, and this was perfect. Also, it comes with fries, which you may know I cannot resist.
While we waited (a little while) for our food, the very friendly, efficient, professional, helpful waitress brought us rolls with honey-cinnamon butter. These things were like crack to me, but I stopped at one because I knew I was getting more bread in my po’ boy, though it was hard not to eat them all because that butter was so delicious, almost, but not quite, dessert-y. I had asked for mayo for my fries, and when our server brought it she also treated me to a house remoulade with horseradish to try. It had a latent kick that hung around for quite awhile, so I refrained from spreading it all over my sandwich when it came with that, too. The sandwich was good. The fish was a little bland, though I guess I could have fixed that right up with the remoulade. It came with tartar sauce, as well, which I used more of. The catfish fillet comes on a long bun with shredded lettuce, and overall, I was pleased with it. I did wonder if I shouldn’t have selected the crab cakes (next time!). The fries, by the way, were absolutely excellent, very crispy on the outside and soft inside. These people are French fry pros, and I know: I am a connoisseur.
He Said: I ordered the grilled salmon, which was a dinner entrée, though we were here for lunch; hence, my salmon was the most expensive part of our bill. With the dinner entrees, I had my choice of two sides, and since I was striving to keep the fat content down, coming off of a bout of pancreatic unrest, I tried to pick low- or no-fat sides—not an easy task as most of the sides involved something fried. I opted for an order of baked beans and a green salad with a honey-mustard dressing. There is no fat in honey or in mustard, but you have to watch it at restaurants, where some will tend to add mayonnaise to a honey-mustard sauce and jack up the fat content exponentially. That did not seem to be the case here, but I ate sparingly of the dressing just in case.
The salad was actually quite delicious, with a number of different vegetables along with the greens, and the dressing was tasty. The salmon was cooked to perfection—many, I’m tempted to say most, places of Shucked’s caliber have a tendency to overcook salmon, which just ruins it. Mine was done just right, and made for a delicious lunch. The beans were so-so. Kind of bland and not up to the standard of, say, some of the better barbecue places in town.
She Said: If you can’t tell already, I thought the service was stellar. You can tell a lot about a service ethic when things don’t go correctly. To wit, our waitress was staffing everyone who was there when we arrived, and she kept things moving and we never felt neglected. I was starting to feel like the food was taking awhile just when it arrived. Then, I looked at my plate a second, and realized I had been brought a shrimp po’ boy, and I was pretty sure that was not what I ordered. I checked with He Said, and he said I’d asked for the catfish, as well (but I’ve been known to order things I’ve never even thought of ordering before, such as the seafood salad at Sushi Café instead of the seaweed salad that I prefer). The food was brought by a runner and when the waitress came to check on us, before I even got the whole question out about if this was what I had ordered, her face indicated that I did indeed have the wrong sandwich. She kindly left me lots of fries to munch while she replaced my po’ boy lickety-split. Then, not long after I started my sandwich, our waitress returned to our table with an extra catfish filet fried on a plate. She said the chef felt bad about sending out my sandwich with what he thought was a too small filet—it’s usually a one-filet dish, but that one fried up pretty small, so he wanted to make sure I had enough. Since I couldn’t finish the whole sandwich as it was, I brought that delicious extra guy on home to enjoy later.
He Said: We got a lot of attention and it was good attention. Service was friendly and helpful, and the mistake was quickly corrected and then made up for abundantly with the extra catfish filet. I should probably mention that they also undercharged us on the check, billing us for only one of Jones’s Barefoot wines and not the other foot. When I pointed this out to our server, she was quite grateful. I was hoping they did it on purpose as another way to make up for the initial wrong sandwich, but no such luck.
What We Got and What We Paid: Catfish po’ boy with fries and two glasses of wine, unsweetened iced tea, grilled salmon, a green salad and side of baked beans, for $44.49. (Close to $20 of that was for the salmon).
She Said: I’m sure I’ll be back for the laid-back vibe, the exceptional service and the tasty comfort food (and drink) Shucked serves up.
He Said: I’m sure we’ll be back. It was a nice place with decent food and a comfortable atmosphere.
So…He Said and She Said: Go here for something a little different in Conway’s restaurant scene if you like oysters, or just a relaxing restaurant with tasty food and a full bar if you don’t.
Editor's Note: Eat It, Conway is produced by local author Jay Ruud and his wife (poet and novelist Stacey Margaret Jones). The couple has begun an attempt to eat at and review, every restaurant in Conway, Arkansas. The Log Cabin Democrat and thecabin.net are publishing Eat It, Conway with permission from the authors. Visit them online at jayruud.com and on Facebook at Eat It, Conway. In addition to restaurant reviews, Ruud authors movie reviews on the site.