Update: Far be it from me to tell you to stop reading my blog and go elsewhere, but it’s worth noting that Shell.Fish.Sue has finally gotten a website up since I wrote this, and it doesn’t seem quite right that this comes up in a search so far in advance of their official online presence. And wouldn’t you know, they’ve already added a few new things to their menu. So try this for the most up-to-date info: http://shellfishsue.com/
First things first: look, I don’t know why the name of the place is stylized that way, either. To be honest, we mostly call it “selfish shoe” around here, and that usually not on purpose.
Anyway, Lansdale has this newish seafood place. It’s been open maybe a month, maybe a little less. It’s one of those really casual hybrid places, with a takeout counter and plastic cutlery and a cooler full of self-serve sodas, but you can also eat there, which I have now done a couple of times.
This is not necessarily destination dining. I mean, suburban types who are well-accustomed to driving everywhere they go shouldn’t think twice about driving a little ways to get there, but it’s largely a neighborhood spot—which is incredibly welcome in Lansdale, where Main Street is still populated mostly by pizza places and diners.
The food is, frankly, a lot better than I expected it to be. I say that only because very early on, when I hadn’t so much as seen a menu but every dish I had heard anyone else mention was fried, I had my doubts. I mean, not that I would ever take issue with a chip shop; it just wasn’t what I imagined when the sign first went up. And yeah, it turned out that the bulk of the opening menu is deep-fried or crusted. So I was surprised at what a light touch their chef has with it.
The first time I went, I tried the fish and chips. For sticklers, this is tempura-battered fish with french fries, not “fish and chips” in any proper British sense. (This place hardly owns that particular semantic issue, though.) The portion is smallish, as it should be, given that it’s priced at all of $10. I tried it with cod, and it was fresh and a little creamy with a very crisp, non-greasy coating. The only problem with it, if you could call it that, is that there are so many more interesting things on the menu.
This shrimp po’ boy was among the more compelling options. (“Po’ boy,” of course, is another one of those regionalisms people can quibble about,but I’m not here to speak to that. It was a good sandwich. And yes, I took this with my cellphone, so I apologize for the photo quality.) Jarred got another sandwich earlier, an Italian affair with breaded cod, which he was very happy with, but this po’ boy was more my speed. That is to say, it incorporated lots of pickled things and some heat, which is the direction I tend to want to go in when fried seafood’s involved. Smoked tomatoes, interestingly enough, were on both sandwiches but took on entirely different character from one appearance to another.
Below, I’ve got the current menu, because I can tell from google searches that locals are anxious to see it. The shell.fish.sue facebook page has a version up, but this is more complete; it’s the full menu currently available in the restaurant. Even so, you might want to take the menu as a suggestion. They’re still adding to it, there are usually about 4 or 5 specials available on the board, and they won’t always have everything on the menu. (But really, you should be suspicious of any seafood place that’s never out of anything. And note that the lobster mac and cheese and the bread pudding are only available during Friday and Saturday during dinner hours, though the menu only says “Friday and Saturday” with no hours specified in the first case, and is totally mute in the second.)
I think uncertainty and surprises are a nice part of the small neighborhood dining experience. But if you’ve got dietary restrictions or are just particular about knowing exactly what’s going to be on your plate, you might want to ask a lot of questions, because the menu doesn’t accurately reflect every single detail. Jarred tried to order a tuna salad at lunch, for instance, and they didn’t have tuna that day. He considered the mac and cheese, which is how we learned that that’s not around at lunch. Some off-menu skate was then recommended, and when he asked how it was prepared, the guy responded, “Oh, however. We could fry it or crust it…” and when he opted for a lemon-basil crust, no other variables were discussed. The on-menu crusted fishes come “with two sides,” which I took to mean you could choose between the few on the menu (fries, potato salad, slaw), but the actual plating turned out to be more thoughtful than that: Jarred’s skate showed up with slaw, a smear of mushy peas, and a scoop of the potato salad that had been seared (!) as if it were a potato pancake.
And here’s the thing: it was all seriously good. (The skate, which sometimes seems to confound people, was perfectly cooked.) None of the surprises have concerned us, but others reading this might like to know. The place is new, and there are a lot of little details that make the place interesting but also weren’t likely to be fully ironed out in a mere matter of weeks (oh, by the way, they have 6 different salts for your fries). The slaw, by the by, is pretty unique: I’d describe it as tasting more pickled than simply dressed. By the evening hours, it’s garlicky and a little hot and can almost take on a bit of kimchi-style funk. In other words, it’s awesome.
But one thing that is really important to know is this: They take credit cards, but because it is “primarily set up as a takeout place,” per the woman who rang us up last time, their credit card slips don’t give you an opportunity to tip them. While tipping in cash is always a nice idea, here you’ll really, really want to have at least enough cash for a tip. Unless you want to have someone wait on you and then awkwardly realize after the fact that there’s no way to tip them. Which totally happened to us, in case that wasn’t obvious.
Oh well. Next time. After the break: the menu.