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Bar Tab: O'Shucks Raw Bar & Grill

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The delicious garlic parmesan oysters and Cortez Lollipops pair nicely with cold draft beers at O'Shucks Raw Bar & Grill in Cortez. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

Drink and eat like a local. In Cortez, Southwest Florida’s famed fishing village, this excellent motto usually means ice-cold domestic beers and strong, two-part cocktails paired with mullet, oysters and barbecue. Sorry, folks, but umbrella-studded standards and extra-expensive grouper sandwiches are for ninnies in these parts. That’s why we love O'Shucks. A relative newbie to Cortez, it’s an entire restaurant that feels like one, big friendly tiki bar but without all the horribly sweet drinks and frozen fish supplied by some behemoth distributor with its headquarters in Houston. O'Shucks also has great prices, another must for a locals-friendly joint in Cortez.

Mullet

A superb serving of smoked mullet at O'Shucks. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

On Saturday, before going to see a rocking show by Fred Eaglesmith at Ace’s Live, we dropped by O'Shucks for the requisite pre-show drinks and eats, while seated, as always, at the bar. I started with a tall Smirnoff and tonic ($4.75) while my amazing wife Kristin went with a pint of Michelob Ultra ($2.50). While enjoying our cheap drinks we noshed on the smoked mullet ($6.95), which arrived on my plate butterflied and pretty much complete except for the head. If it had been there I probably would have tried to eat that, too.

Jimmy and Sandy Galanis own and operate O'Shucks with Jimmy manning the smoker found in the front parking lot. Jimmy has mastered the smoker, transforming the wonderfully fatty and oily mullet – the greatest fish found in Florida, in my humble opinion – into a tastily seasoned and smoked masterpiece.

Owners

O'Shucks owners Jimmy and Sandy Galanis pose for a picture behind the bar./ STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

Kristin ordered the soup of the day, a cup of O'Shucks Cheeky Chowder ($4.95). Creamy but not a dairy overkill, the soup contained a generous portion of delicious grouper cheeks. Kristin, who enjoys salty and spicy perhaps a little more than your average eater, recommends adding several drops of Tabasco. I thought the heat was a nice touch, too.

From there, it was time for me to enjoy a pint of Yuengling ($3) while Kristin returned to Mich Ultra to go with our plate of six garlic-parmesan oysters ($7.95). Smothered with cheese cooked to a delightful crisp with plenty of salty and pungent punch, the molluscs were warm underneath but still nice and raw, retaining the natural flavor of the lovely little sea creature. Because what’s the point of ordering an oyster dish if you can’t actually taste the oyster?

Meanwhile, we also had an order of two Cortez Lollipops ($7.95) in front of us. Thick, tender pork shanks given a dark, beautiful bark in the smoker, these are what good barbecue is all about. The Cortez Lollipops came with a side of barbecue sauce but I never thought to use it. We’re talking about some seriously mouthwatering meat, here, people.

Mac bitten

Mouthwatering macaroni and cheese bites at O'Shucks. STAFF PHOTO / WADE TATANGELO

The Eaglesmith concert was about to start and we had already eaten more then we planned. But Jimmy and Sandy insisted we try their homemade, fried macaroni and cheese bites. What could we do? Lightly battered, filled with fresh pasta and globs of orange, cheesy goodness, the mac-n-cheese bites are decadent bar food at its best.
Not as famous, at least not yet, in Cortez as the mullet and barbecue, but a local favorite nonetheless.

O'Shucks Raw Bar & Grill
12012 Cortez Road W., Bradenton
792-4822

O'Shucks Raw Bar & Grill
12012 Cortez Road W., Bradenton
792-4822

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo created what would eventually be called Bar Tab while working as a correspondent for the Herald-Tribune in 2003. He would continue writing about bars for Maxim, Tampa Bay Times, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, OC (Calif.) Weekly and The Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune as a staff writer in 2013 and has happily returned to writing our weekly column Bar Tab. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: January 22, 2014
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