The name of the restaurant puzzled us until our entrees arrived. Then all became clear.
The Juicy Seafood is aptly named. Because the seafood entrees (along with two baseball-sized potatoes and a corn cobette) are steamed-boiled, with sauce and spices, and served inside great, big, heavy-duty plastic bags.
That keeps the shrimp, crab legs, oysters, mussels and (in season) clams and crawfish, well, juicy.
You can eat your meal out of the plastic bag or dump it into the metal tray beneath. Either way, it's going to be messy.
Which is why the hostess covers your tabletop, at tables or booths, with a big pre-cut swatch of butcher paper. It reduces the amount of post-meal mopping.
The restaurant also supplies plastic crab-emblazoned bibs and -- no matter how silly you think they look -- we recommend donning one if you want to avoid getting sauce and/or shell fragments on your clothing. We found the cheap plastic gloves saved our hands from being covered with glop, although it reduced tactile sensations that might have helped us more fully enjoy our meal. And we peeled them off directly into a plastic-bag-lined beer bucket, along with the plastic cooking bags, shells, sauce-stained paper towels and all our other table detritus, making the table cleanup simple and efficient.
Lulu's Crab Boil in the Heights helped pioneer the concept in this market, though The Juicy Seafood, which appears to be part of a mini-chain (we found one with the same name and a very similar setup in Savannah, Ga.) has a slightly broader menu.
Choose your seafood from the "Let's Shake It" or "Combo" sections; the former involves single seafood types, most priced by the pound, while the latter pairs 'em -- shrimp and crab legs, shrimp and crawfish, crab legs and mussels, clams and mussels. Then "Choose Your Flavor" -- Cajun (Original), lemon pepper, garlic butter or "The Shake Sauce" (all of the above) -- and "Pick a Spicy Level," mild, medium or hot. "All seafood come w. Corn or Potatoes," ungrammatically proclaims the menu, even though all our seafood came with corn and potatoes.
If you visited the Cantrell Road restaurant, in the western annex of the Pleasant Ridge Town Center, when it was either Johnny Carino's or Market Place Grill, you'll recognize the architecture. The Juicy Seafood folks have made some relatively minor changes, swapping some booths for tables and tables for booths, and adding some cute, colorful bubbling-water features -- some as wall dividers, some free-standing -- and "deep-sea" wall decor, including netting, plastic fish and shellfish. Spotlit projections of stylized crabs and fish on the floor near the door help perk up the entryway. Menu prices are handwritten in, possibly because they're subject to seasonal change or because the menus were printed ahead of the price structure.
The entrees are large enough so you can safely pass up the soups and appetizers, which, based on our experience, is a very good idea.
It's rare for clam chowder ($4.99; broccoli soup, $3.99, and beef soup $4.99, are also options) to have equal portions of chopped clams and potato chunks, but The Juicy Seafood's does -- very little of either. The soup also lacked spice and flavor. Essentially, we got a $5 bowl of warm milk. Meh.
The eight shrimp in our Shrimp Basket appetizer were attractively plated, but they were overbattered, overfried and, at $12, overpriced (that's $1.67 per). For shrimp that we could have had at least as good and cheaper from Captain D's. Oh, and the accompanying cocktail sauce was oversharp.
Aside from the mess, however, we have no complaints regarding any of our entrees.
Only one mussel out of our pound of mussels ($12.99) didn't open in the cooking process. We ordered ours with "The Shake Sauce," which even though we asked for mild had a bit more kick than we were prepared for at first bite. The Snow Crab Legs ($21.99 pound), in garlic butter, were plentiful and tasty enough to please Intrepid Companion's appetite and palate. And our garlic-butter "Shrimps w. No Head" -- that is, with the heads removed and deveined -- was worth $2 more a pound ($16.99 vs. $14.99) than the "Shrimps w. Head," if for no other reason than they were relatively easy to peel.
Other entree options: King Crab Legs ($35.99 pound), steamed oysters (six for $11.99, 12 for $21.99), crawfish (in season, $7.99 pound), clams (apparently not in season), baby clams ($9.99 pound) and a not-priced lobster tail. The menu also offers wings -- lemon pepper, Buffalo, barbecue and Cajun -- and some additional sides.
First-visit service was exemplary. The waitress was helpful, friendly and attentive. Not so on our second visit -- we had to ask the waitress for our beer bucket, although we watched her take one, unbidden, to another table. We had to ask her for a fork, which she brought, but only after giving us an argument about how this is "an eat-with-your-fingers kind of place." (Ever try eating a baseball-size boiled potato with your fingers?) She never asked us how spicy we wanted our shrimp. (Luckily, mild was fine.) And she didn't wait until we left to pick up our paid check -- she snatched it from the table while we were sitting there.
Weekend on 06/14/2018
The Juicy Seafood
Address: 11600 Pleasant Ridge Road, Little Rock
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Cuisine: “Beach-boil seafood without the sand”
Credit cards: V, MC, D, AE, DC
Alcoholic beverages: Full bar
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Print Headline: Juicy Seafood lives up to its name