Coco Shrimp, 318 Bryan Av, FW. 817-720-6235. 10:30am-9pm Mon-Thu, 10:30am-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Hawaii’s North Shore isn’t just another gorgeous slice of coastline with pineapple breezes and sugar-sand beaches. It’s the undisputed epicenter of surfing on Planet Earth. Surfers from around the world flock to legendary breaks such as Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay, chasing 40-foot monsters on their search for the perfect wave. Located on the far edge of O’ahu, the North Shore is dotted with laid-back surf shacks, roadside eateries, and colorful snorkeling coves. It’s also where Fort Worth boys Jordan Barrus and Isaac Hadley met — and where the idea for Coco Shrimp was born.
After graduating from BYU-Hawaii, the two returned home with island life lingering in their minds. They opened a North Shore-style shrimp truck, its Polynesian plate lunches spawning a loyal following over the last three years. Now Coco Shrimp has put down roots with a new restaurant that’s slathered with aloha and dripping with garlic butter.
Two-dozen surfboards adorn the wood-and-brick space, a beachy hangout that feels like it should have sand on the floor –– and where we should all be wearing flip-flops. All-out surf decor strikes a tropical tone, with videos of ocean-riding daredevils and “dangerous surf break” signs. A big lanai out front lies ready for springtime.
Despite the cold weather and constant rain, a steady stream of customers filled the tables for the entire two hours that my guests and I were there. Two hours to eat a shrimp plate might seem excessive, but Coco Shrimp’s cozy, chilled-out atmosphere kept us happy to relax and just “be.” Irie reggae music lilted through the air like aural sunshine that counteracted the drab gray muck outside.
Coco Shrimp offers five types of shrimp. Choose one variety or three on the sampler: fried coconut shrimp (a.k.a. Coco Shrimp, their signature), sweet and spicy, spicy, butter-garlic, and lemon-herb. The coconut shrimp also makes an appearance on the tacos. It’s a simple menu, for sure — but you don’t need a bunch of embellishments when your food is this damn good.
Chain restaurants have given coconut shrimp a bad name for some, encasing the seafood in a thick, over-sweetened batter. This is a whole new take. Coco Shrimp respects the crustaceans’ integrity with a light crust made with fresh coconut flakes. The breading allows the shrimp meat to shine instead of smothering its flavor. The kitchen riffs on this original recipe for the sweet and spicy shrimp, which are glazed with teriyaki barbecue, a homemade hot sauce, and “slap yo’ mamma” seasonings. Sticky, savory, sweet, spicy, crunchy, tender — all the boxes were checked.
The other three varieties of shrimp come sautéed instead of battered, each gleaming with flavor. We couldn’t figure out how the butter-garlic shrimp tasted so buttery — it’s like the chef figured out a chemistry trick that makes melted butter thicker and more viscous. Butter clung to the lemon-herb shrimp as well, which could have used a bigger kick of lemon to distinguish it from its butter-garlic brothers. The spicy shrimp featured plenty of kick, its vivid orange color matching its fire.
Each plate includes seven large shrimp plus white rice and a green salad. White rice, who cares, right? Wrong. Coco Shrimp has transformed this filler food into a luxurious culinary excursion, a heady garlic-butter trip that heaves with delight. Apparently, the secret lies in the kitchen’s technique: the art of the fluff-and-drizzle. You can amplify your experience with add-ons: toasted coconut flakes or macadamia nuts for crunch and grilled pineapple and avocado for squish. All are recommended for the rice or the salad, whose dried cranberries complement the housemade dressings (tangy poppy seed or creamy ginger).
Coco Shrimp recently added tacos to the menu, and these newcomers topped the charts for everyone at our table. Juicy coconut shrimp nuzzled into fresh flour tortillas with sliced romaine, cucs, sweet chile sauce, and a scratchmade cilantro-lime dressing. Rice on the bottom caught the sauces for a (slightly) less messy eat.
Mochi makes up the dessert menu – hand-held balls of ice cream wrapped in rice dough. Coco Shrimp imports their mochi directly from Hawaii and offers flavors like sugar cookie, blood orange, and chocolate espresso. For some people, the glutinous dough around this Japanese dessert is a bit weird and gummy. For others (including myself), mochi is straight-up heaven in the palm of your hand.
Fort Worth may never be a surfers’ paradise, but Coco Shrimp has found its place in the sun by bringing vibrant North Shore flavors and vacation vibes to Funkytown.
Coco shrimp plate $11
Butter garlic shrimp plate $10
Sampler plate $12
Coco taco $5 or 2 for $8
Mochi 3 for $5