It started simply enough. In 1983, Bob Peterson wanted a seafood shack in Dallas that served good, Southern seafood. Peterson’s wife was at SMU getting her master’s degree, and it seemed as good a time as any to take a chance on the 800-square-foot building that now houses Aw Shucks Oyster Bar.
Almost 30 years and multiple locations later, this joint on Lower Greenville has become a fixture on the local restaurant scene.
“The restaurant just sat there empty for the first two weeks,” says Nick Peterson, Aw Shucks district manager and son of owners Bob and Jill. “It wasn’t until someone from the Dallas Morning News decided to do a write up of the place saying that you could throw a dart at the menu and get a great meal that we saw steady customers. It was all history after that.”
To celebrate turning the big 3-0, Aw Shucks and Big Shucks are throwing a party on September 30, 11 am to 10 pm, with 30-cent oysters and $1.30 draft beers.
The original restaurant spawned spin-offs Aw Shucks Lewisville and Big Shucks in Dallas and Richardson. All of the locations serve seafood such as whole catfish; fried oysters and shrimp; grilled fish, including salmon, mahi mahi, tilapia and trout; snow crab legs; shrimp, oyster and catfish po’ boys; and the house specialty, shrimp cocktail.
“We like to keep things simple,” Peterson says. “Does it taste really good? No? Then we’re out.”
Aw Shucks was serving coastal cuisine before most other Dallas restaurants dare put fish on the menu. But Peterson says his dad didn’t think anything of it; it made sense to him that it would work.
“We are not that far from Galveston,” says Peterson, who has continued his father’s legacy since he passed away 10 years ago. “I think our restaurants give off that feeling of being near the coast. Dallas needed a place to taste the seafood that the South had to offer.”
In addition to Gulf Coast seafood staples, Aw Shucks also is known for its honor system, which has been in place since the restaurant opened its doors all those years ago. Peterson says the honor system is a testament to the community spirit and the importance of having a neighborhood restaurant feel.
That honor system has contributed to the restaurant’s loyal customer base, as does Peterson’s philosophy, which he inherited from his dad: “We offer good, quality seafood at a good, quality price,” Peterson said. “And it has worked for us.”
To celebrate turning the big 3-0, Aw Shucks and Big Shucks are throwing an anniversary party on September 30, from 11 am to 10 pm. Expect 30-cent oysters, $1.30 draft beers, $3.30 house margaritas, and a complimentary slice of Key lime pie for everyone born in 1983.
In addition, each location will spin tunes from the ’80s that will undoubtedly include “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” the No. 1 song when Aw Shucks entered the Dallas food scene in 1983.