I’ve enjoyed several recent meals at a Johnson City eatery specializing in fresh seafood. Shrimp Tailers Seafood Market and Cafe isn’t brand new to the local dining scene, but I only recently paid my first visit — and was instantly delighted!
Shrimp Tailers is tucked into a strip mall along Oakland Avenue close to Mona Lisa’s Gelato, another favorite restaurant of mine.
Shrimp Tailers offers a pleasant, comfortable dining environment with an atmosphere enhanced by whimsical maritime and nautical touches, including a large display case made of polished wood and glass shelves. A variety of items, including glass bowls filled with sand and seashells, as well as ornamental plaques and plates depicting different fish, crabs and shrimp offer color and interest to the dining area.
The walls are painted cream and the floors are hunter green. Seating is offered at a variety of tables equipped with black wooden chairs.
Toward the rear of the restaurant is an area for the items available in the seafood market, which are displayed beneath a glass case. Behind this counter is a large flat-screen television. There’s also a vibrant chalkboard hanging on one wall and replicating the restaurant’s paper menu and listing daily specials in various colors of chalk.
The menu offers a limited selection of appetizers, as well as salad, soups (in season), sandwiches and po’boys. Four different entree selections complete the menu.
For an appetizer, diners might try a Steamed Shrimp Cocktail, Smoked Salmon Dip, Crab Cake or Oysters on the Half-Shell, which can be ordered raw or steamed by the dozen or half-dozen.
During a meal with a friend at Shrimp Tailers, we enjoyed sharing one of the crab cakes, which was fried to a crisp, golden brown and served on a bed of greens. This meal-starter also came with a small container of Shrimp Tailers’ spicy remoulade sauce.
We would have liked to have sampled the Gumbo featured on the menu board, but our server told us that during the warm summer months there isn’t a sustainable demand for this traditional Louisiana favorite. We were informed that once the weather turns cooler, Gumbo and possibly other soups of the day will return to the menu.
The really tough decision during a visit to Shrimp Tailers is whether to dine on one of the entrees or one of the fantastic Po’Boys, a submarine sandwich variant traditional to Louisiana Creole cuisine. It typically features meat, often roast beef or fried seafood, that is served on baguettes.
From my visits to the eatery, I can testify to the delectability of their Po’Boys. The menu offers Po’Boys with crab, oysters, shrimp or blackened or fried fish. I have enjoyed both a Blackened Fish Po’Boy and an Oyster Po’Boy.
The fish used for my Po’Boy was cobia, a type of gamefish known for its firm texture and good flavor. I ordered the fish blackened with Cajun spices. The sandwich is also served with lettuce, tomato, onion and a generous amount of the eatery’s tangy remoulade sauce.
I enjoyed the Oyster Po’Boy even more when I ordered it during another visit. On this particular occasion, the sandwich featured a generous helping of fried Apalachicola oysters from Apalachicola Bay in the Florida Panhandle. The lightly breaded oysters on the Po’Boy were fried to a golden brown and made a delicious sandwich.
On another visit, my dining companion decided to sample the entree items, which include Crab Cakes, Blackened or Grilled Fish, Steamer Stone Crabs or a Shrimp Tailer Bucket, which features steamed Cajun shrimp, corn on the cob and red potatoes. The bucket comes in two sizes, small and large. For just a couple more dollars, I decided to try the large Shrimp Tailer Bucket.
My dining companion chose to try the Blackened Fish, which featured a filet of Redfish during our visit. This fish is also known as Red Snapper, a prized food fish.
The Shrimp Tailer Bucket is served in a deep, metal bowl that is filled with a pound of steamed Cajun shrimp, three ears of corn on the cob, some sausage and a generous amount of red potatoes. The shrimp are of the “peel and eat” variety, so there is a bit of work involved. It’s worth it to enjoy these well-seasoned shrimp, the sweet corn and the tasty potatoes.
Other than the Shrimp Tailer Bucket, most of the food at the eatery is served on disposable plates. Otherwise, service is usually rather good. Allow some time for the fresh preparation of the various seafood items. It’s worth the wait to know that the Po’Boys or entrees are being freshly made only after you order them.
My friend’s Redfish was served with a modest salad of mixed greens, tomatoes and shredded cheese. The nice, firm filet of Redfish was perfectly grilled and seasoned with a medley of Cajun spices.
We’ve never been at all disappointed with anything we’ve tried at Shrimp Tailers, and we usually manage to save room for a shared dessert at the end of the meal.
Dessert options, served as casually as the main entrees, include Chocolate Trifle and Bread Pudding. On our most recent visit, we tried the Bread Pudding, which was a spongy, custard-like confection and quite tasty. The only thing I might suggest for this dessert would be a drizzling of some sort of sauce to add some additional flavor.
For seafood lovers, a visit to Shrimp Tailers is a must. The eatery is a great addition to the local dining scene where good seafood establishments are few and far between. I know I will be going back for future visits. If you go, let them know they were recommended.
AT A GLANCE: Shrimp Tailers Seafood Market & Cafe, 401 W. Oakland Ave., Johnson City. 341-9345. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Closed Sunday. Menu items range from $1.50-$15.99. Some fish items are market price. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.