Shep’s Off the Hook Seafood, 3005 University Dr, FW. 817-923-2377. 10:30am-10pm Sun, 11am-10pmMon-Fr1,10:30am-10pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
When in doubt, don’t order the $12 lobster roll.
That’s what I learned recently on one of two trips to Shep’s Off the Hook Seafood, a new TCU-adjacent joint that fuses the menus from two Weatherford restaurants to sometimes-discordant effect.
Co-owners John David Shepherd and wife Jennifer Shepherd took over the small spot formerly occupied by Salsa Limón in late October, aiming for the same high grades that their Saltwater and Shep’s Place routinely receive from Parker County diners.
Their Fort Worth effort conjures more confused transfer student than honor roll standout.
First, take the menu, a hodgepodge of seafood-esque items that strikes as both curious and potentially delicious. Under appetizers, you’ll find an excellent hummus commingling with plantains and housemade chips.
The odd carbohydrate pairing had my guest and me momentarily flustered. Do you dip the fried disks, which looked more like Puerto Rican tostones, into the hummus? Or do you simply alternate between the two generous portions of fried snacks while spooning the smoky, tahini-heavy dip until you realize you’re no longer hungry for the rest of your meal?
None of this was a problem for me because I ordered the lobster roll. The iteration seemed to contradict everything I ever learned in Lobster Roll 101. (“Always, always order the lobster roll.”)
Made with lobster “from Boston,” according to John David, the meat in the hot dog bun was suspect upon arrival. There was so much of it —overflowing! How could the restaurant afford to sell this sandwich for a measly $12?
I may have failed Calculus 2 in college, but even I figured out pretty quickly that the meat was rubbery, chewy, and lacking discernible butter or mayo flavor, so I abandoned the sandwich after the first bite.
I wish I could say the same for the accompanying sidewinder fries, which are what results when a curly and wedge fry mate (French Fries 101). My guests and I tore into the morsels with TCU offensive-lineman abandon.
A second visit found the potatoes cooked a little longer, yielding even more addictive results. Dip them into the thick and tangy housemade tartar, and you might be able to look past other menu false starts, which include the trout entree, “simply prepared with sea salt and pepper” atop a bed of fluffy yellow-tinged rice and a well-slicked, pedestrian offering of mixed vegetables.
My guest claimed he would have to start eating like this one day soon, when his doctor tells him that, to prolong his life he must start eating bland, boring food. In another bow to odd preparations, half of the trout had the skin on, while the other side was skinless.
The crab cakes, touted by our server on both visits, were two flattened pucks, breadcrumb-bathed and pressed into oblivion. They were tasty fish cakes yet featured an odd density that my jocular friend said reminded him of potato pancakes.
Meanwhile, other dishes inexplicably excelled. The ahi tuna steak was expertly prepared, with a telltale pinkish hue that portended a juicy bite. Its wasabi-enhanced rub added a welcome, spicy touch.
The po’boy sliders (a choice of oysters, shrimp, or chicken) on sweet sourdough buns — not unlike those of its neighbor, Dutch’s Hamburgers — were promising. While the batter on the fried oysters version fell apart, granting a TMI look of mealy, oversized nuggets, the shrimp, fresh from the fryer, were enjoyably crispy and Freshman 15-plump.
Housemade desserts are also available, and a brunch taken straight off the Saltwater menu is on offer Saturdays and Sundays.
But last I checked, school is in session during the week. Like a sixth-year senior, Shep’s Off the Hook Seafood, with its clever name and nonsensical menu, would do best to get its act together.
Shep’s Off the Hook Seafood
Hummus w/chips and plantains $7
Lobster roll $12
Po’boy sliders $9
Ahi tuna steak $19