Short Orders: Big Shucks
6232 E. Mockingbird
Hush puppies shouldn't be that difficult. They just consist of corn meal dough, after all--generally spiked with chopped onion or shallot, rolled into shape and fried.
Nothing to them, really. But many professional kitchens seem unable to cope with the homespun Southern recipe, substituting commercial mix dialed toward the New England sweet cornbread palate, cutting the meal with too much flour--that sort of thing.
At Big Shucks they overheat the frying vat...
or at least they did so on my most recent visit. This causes the little critters to crisp up and pop to the surface before the inside is fully cooked--a tragedy, considering the line cooks prepared a batch of good, old-school batter. Rich and crusty, the vague but comfortable flavor of sweet corn severed by bits of onion, the memory of hearths and homesteads lurk in each bite.
If they weren't so frustratingly gooey inside. And if any of us grew up in a homestead with a hearth.
Otherwise, Big Shucks remains the come-as-you-are haven of fatty Southern comfort, the landlocked oyster shack or whatever you want to call it. With a few exceptions (the popular shrimp cocktail, for instance) fried dishes such as catfish rise above the rest--though nothing I tried was off-putting.
Just don't expect more than short-order joint subtlety.
Their slaw is mild in temperament. Thick fries caramelize just enough to beat out flimsy versions served at many other restaurants--not saying much, really. But a couple odd frites that ended up amongst the fatter fries managed to stand out, crackling at the skin and golden inside. A basket of fried oysters socks you with bold, musty flavors under a clean and grease-free cornmeal shell. Best to lay off the overpowering sauces.
And, yes, if you haven't stopped by in awhile, they continue to follow the pay-as-you-leave honor system.