An unpretentious spot with an eclectic mix of tables and aqua-blue walls studded with flip-flops, Summer Shack is the sort of place where you want to relax with friends, drink beer and eat oysters and fries. But the inconsistent quality of the food is a drawback.
Take the fried oysters. On our first visit, they were fresh and briny, but weighed down by heavy breading. The second time, the oysters arrived clumped together in a mushy, undercooked coating, so we sent them back. Finally, on the third try, they were as they should be — individual golden-brown morsels, although we still found the breading too heavy.
Undercooked breading was also a problem for the fish-and-chips basket (shown). However, fries are something that Summer Shack does remarkably well. They are like the boardwalk fries you get at the beach: slender fingers of potatoes fried with their skins and well-seasoned with salt and pepper. Even without the sand between my toes, these fries are good.
The broiled fish also made the grade. Spanish mackerel and flounder were just cooked through, moist and tender. The shrimp-and-grits dish was less successful. The shrimp were plump and not overcooked, and the bacon on top was crisp, but the cheese grits, which formed a solid mass in the bowl, lacked any cheese flavor.
For lunch one day, we tried the blackened fish tacos and found them inedible because of a heavy hand with the spices, but we liked the creamy slaw that accompanied the fish. On the other hand, the sloppy Joe that we sampled lacked flavor.
Summer Shack has character. Its crew just needs to pay more attention to each dish served.
12859 Broad Street Road, Goochland; 784-4111
Prices: Appetizers and small plates $5 to $13; sandwiches and salads $4 to $12; dinner plates $11 to $27.
Hours: Opens at 11:30 a.m. weekdays, noon on weekends; closes at 1 a.m. Sunday to Thursday; 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. (Note: Summer Shack plans to add brunch and start opening earlier on weekends).