When I first biked up to Shuck Shack along the Buffalo River this past Saturday, I was blown away by what I saw. There was a 45 minute wait at the time, with a line of seafood lovers waiting for their chance to place their orders and sit down to eat.
Shuck Shack is restaurateur Michael Tobin’s latest brainchild. I spoke to Tobin earlier today, who told me that he was just as surprised as I was at the glorious response to his new seafood experience. “I couldn’t have anticipated it,” sad Tobin. “We have a restaurant in Williamsville and one downtown – both are open and business is picking up, but not back to normal due to COVID-19. I haven’t had a day off since before the virus struck. So I thought that it would be good to have a third place, outside, where I could grind it out. I said, ‘Let’s do something fun,’ not expecting it to be the hit that it has become.”
Tobin attributes the stellar success with people not wanting to be indoors quite yet. “They feel comfortable outside,” he explained. “They also want fresh seafood in this type of setting. And it’s super fresh – the oysters leave Cape Cod waters on Wednesday morning and are on people’s plates starting on Friday, until they sell out. I’ve had so many people say, ‘Ive never had an oyster like this.’ We pack them cool, not iced, with seaweed (kelp) right from the ocean. We serve the oysters with the seaweed right on the plates, with some ice to keep the oysters fresh and cool.”
Shuck Shack has not only captivated the tastebuds of the locals, people are coming from as far away as Rochester to enjoy the offerings. “A husband and wife came up to me last weekend,” he mentioned, as we chatted about the clientele. “They told me that every year they go to Cape Cod, for the last 40 years, to celebrate their anniversary. This year, they decided to come to Shuck Shack, to carry on with the tradition as best they could. The woman grabbed me and said that everything was like The Cape. She was so happy. It made me feel great. It’s been such a blast doing this.”
The setup at Shuck Shack is so simple, yet unexpected. It just goes to show that not everything has to be so overthought. Tobin wanted to get up and running as quickly as possible, to take advantage of the summer months. He set up a trailer to sell oysters, mussels, clams, and seafood. He also set up limited days and hours, to create a demand. Customers can also order beer and wine, and there’s even a live music element.
As for the food offerings, Tobin told me that aside from the mollusks, there are two fan favorites:
- An ahi tuna sandwich – super popular – 7oz cajun ahi tuna – tuna buger @ $22
- The lobster special – lobster roll with 4 oz lobster meat with a steamed-on-site lobster claw and butter @ $29
Everything is served up on a first come first serve basis. Customers order at the trailer, and are then sat at a table with a buzzer that goes off when their food is ready. “We work with the customers through the process,” explained Tobin. “It’s like an orchestra conductor, making sure that people are social distancing and wearing masks before they are seated. But it’s also working smoothly, and people are happy. It’s a win so far.”
Shuck Shack is located at the water’s edge of the Buffalo River, in Ellicott Development’s parking lot at 301 Ohio Street, across from Buffalo RiverWorks. It’s open Friday through Sunday.
Live music (subject to change):
DJ Sike (Adesa) on Sundays for seated “brunch” – no dancing