The 2002 Oscar for Best Picture went to A Beautiful Mind — the story of John Nash — one of the of the twentieth century’s greatest mathematicians, and the creator of the Nash Equilibrium. The Nash Equilibrium is a foundational concept in what is known in economics as game theory. In arguably the film’s most famous scene, Nash is slugging pints at a Princeton bar, observing his friends do their best to pick-up the prettiest girl at the bar. As each one tries their luck and fails, Nash realizes that their energy is being misplaced — if they really want to get laid, they need to leave the smokeshow alone and go after her friends. From the perspective of a new restaurant on the Shoreline, the game theory would suggest to stay the hell away from the already oversaturated seafood scene. How about a good Mexican restaurant anyone? Yet for some — those that have the audacity to believe they can crush the entrenched competition — they throw game theory out the window and decisively act, no matter the logic or risk. Shanks roared onto the scene just three years ago, but its quality already places it on the upper echelon of seafood joints in the area.
A three minute drive from Clinton town center brings you to Shanks Waterfront Dining, which serves fresh seafood in an unbeatable setting. Located on a marina, Shanks has two level seating. The hardest tables to get are the six picnic tables on the ground floor, flanked by a cornhole set and about the ritziest mobile bathroom you will ever find. I think these are the best seats in the house. Each has a wide open view to the water and if you can handle the incompetency of small children playing cornhole nearby, you’re good. The upstairs seating has equally nice views, but you need to snag one of the tables directly by the railings. If it’s dinnertime you might also have to contend with some extra noise as Shanks’s brings in live music almost every night. Its basically two guys rotating every other evening and one dude is heavy on Billy Joel. I like Billy Joel, so its fine. If you’re a hipster who curses all things popular out of principle, then you’re fucked.
Fried seafood served at picnics tables is a coastal New England tradition. While there are a multitude of restaurants that fit that rough description on the Shoreline, Shanks stands out for three reasons — its waterfront location, its relaxed vibe, and their tweaks to traditional seafood menus.
The views you are getting at Shanks — where nearly every table has open views towards the water — are spectacular. They aren’t impeded by marsh or cut off by other buildings, but they are breathtaking snapshots of an open inlet.
The vibe of the place is awesome too. There is nothing formal about the restaurant whatsoever, even if the land you’re standing on is expensive as fuck. Its a simple set up where you order from a stand close to the entrance, take your seat, and wait to be served. Shanks provides free popcorn and its a BYOB establishment — combined with the view, there are worse places in the world to wait. In fact, the lack of service charge and BYOB policy means that the cost of your meal will be, all things considered, relatively inexpensive. You can even get in a game of cornhole too — the children won’t be too difficult defeat and displace.
Lastly, everything I said about Shanks above is moot if the food sucks. And lucky for us all, the food definitely does not suck. There are the usual fryer options — scallops, shrimp, clam strips, whole belly clams, and calamari. They also have staples such as fish and chips, oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail, and — controversial in my opinion due to their direct proximity to the beloved Lobster Landing — hot-buttered lobster rolls. All of these options are great. I wouldn’t say they are the differentiating factor in why Shanks works, but they hold their own against the competition.
What makes Shanks special are their takes on traditional fish dishes and the contemporary options they provide. Not on the menu yet, but a good example of this are Poke Shooters or as they describe it— a deconstructed sushi roll. How many times do you see that on a seafood shack menu? Lobster nachos and Lobster BLTs with lemon tarragon aioli are also interesting options, as are the fried avocado fingers and, my personal favorite side dish, buffalo cauliflower. There are more examples of this, but the place is about as modern as you’d want a place like this to be. Lastly, the crown jewel of the menu are its fish tacos. You can get them grilled or fried, but either way they are ridiculous. Mango Pico de Gallo / Avocado / Lettuce / Corn / Chipotle Aioli, with two heaping portions of fresh fish. They are messy as shit, but after the first bite, you’ll become ravenous for every dropped morsel.
We are fortunate to live by the water. Not everybody is so lucky. When people come visit, the first thing I do — after offering them a fine New England beer of course — is take them out to lunch at Shanks. Its what they envision a coastal seafood eatery to be and representative of what they believe life of the Shoreline is like. Good for us, Shanks isn’t just for show — its the real deal — a legitimately beautiful setting matched with outstanding food.
Strengths: Waterfront Location / Inventive Menu / Relaxed Atmosphere / Fish Tacos
Weaknesses: Seasonal — wish it was open all year! / No Bar — though it is BYOB
Tips: Evening is best. Sunset with live music, the views, and delicious seafood is tough to beat. Bring a few beers or a bottle of wine and stay awhile.
FEAST: Fried Fish Tacos are the best. Though try something new each time — fried avocado and buffalo cauliflower are nice sides.
FROTH: Free water is offered. That’s cool!
FEAST: 8/10 – FROTH: 5/10 – FOOD: 8/10 – Seafood Shack: 10/10