Shuck Me, Sauce Me, Eat Me Raw
Skip the shrimp and save room for the marvelous Key lime pie at J.L. Trent's Seafood on the Westside
4553 120th St., Westside, 908-4202,
Concealed within a unique town-within-a- town called Yukon lurks a simple seafood shack surrounded by bikers, sailors, lumberjacks and Baptists. This is the culinary story of J.L. Trent's Seafood.
Inside you'll find a communal experience where leather-clad bikers from neighboring Murray's Tavern down two-for-one beers while legions of gray-haired Christians from the fundamentalist Baptist church across the street pass tartar sauce to a table full of workers from the nearby lumberyard. This strange juxtaposition of parallel universes seems to mimic the curious and harmonic ocean world from which the restaurant's menu originates.
Aesthetics aside, a growling stomach must be tamed. After consulting the menu and a chalkboard full of specials, I order a classic combo platter ($15.99), which will allow me to savor several items — oysters, scallops and clam strips. Since it's January and New Year's resolutions are still fresh, I opt for baked instead of fried seafood, except for the clam strips, which only come fried. Platters are served with glorious little golden hushpuppies and two sides. Sadly, mac 'n' cheese isn't an option, and I'm not feeling like a hefty baked potato or the standard crinkle-cut fries, so I pick grits and collard greens.
I also order a mahi sandwich ($9.99) and side of fried shrimp ($5), because who comes to a place like this and doesn't get shrimp? The sandwich — a hoagie housing leafy Romaine, tomato, pickles, onions and Trent's secret sauce, was decent. The sandwich may have worked better with a smaller ciabatta roll, as the hoagie-to-mahi ratio did not quite find a proper equilibrium. And sadly, the shrimp didn't win me over, either. The batter could have been crisper and a bit more flavorful. I've had better.
That said, the seafood on my platter tasted fresh and the collard greens were particularly saporous. Worth noting: The tangy tartar sauce was thick and creamy, and flecked with relish — just how I like it.
The grand finale: a reasonably sized slice of homemade Key lime pie ($3.99) that was worth every penny and calorie. Delightfully sweet, it sat atop the most perfectly moist but firm graham cracker crust foundation. Order your own or risk having to share.
I'll return soon to try some of the other menu items (hello, low country boil!) and partake in a dozen oysters on the half shell (market price, which this night was $11.99). After all, the slogan on the back of the waitress' T-shirts challenges any sailor from nearby NAS Jax to "Shuck me, sauce me, eat me raw."