At Sharky's Gulf Grill, it's time to pass around plates of seafood and summer fun.
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We followed our crab legs with generous pours of Oyster Bay Marlborough, a crisp and aromatic sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, and the restaurant’s iceberg wedge, a simple and satisfying salad draped with grape tomatoes, crispy bacon, creamy gorgonzola, and candied pecans made in house. The restaurant’s candied pecans showed up again sprinkled on our dessert, a warm chocolate tart, mysterious and delicious, and plated with two scoops of whisky pecan gelato. (Helpful hint: Sharky’s also sells its candied pecans to-go, so take some home for your own cooking.)
Over several visits in two weeks, we ate in the restaurant’s main dining room (nothing special); its covered patio with overhead fans (hot but upbeat); and its friendly, spacious bar with widescreen TVs and fun aquatic appointments like a tropical fish tank and a surfboard suspended from the ceiling. With all our meals, we were pleased to discover many house-made items in supporting roles, including croutons, condiments, remoulade, tartar sauce, pesto aioli, tortilla chips, and salad dressings such as sherry-shallot vinaigrette.
We also found side dishes unexpected in traditional seafood restaurants. Yes, Sharky’s serves hushpuppies, slaw, and fries, but don’t overlook the menu’s crawfish mac, a decadently rich combination of cream, crawfish, white cheddar cheese, and Bragg’s signature lobster crab bisque. Seasonal vegetables also offer more healthy choices. The restaurant’s edamame corn succotash is colorful and tasty, and the curly kale is prepared just right: steamed, sautéed in butter, and finished with a little vinegar.
As with many large restaurants (Sharky’s can seat 300 people), some problems do crop up. Serving lunch, dinner, brunch, sushi, and happy-hour specials, it’s hard to get it all right, all the time. For some meals, servers were efficient and informed; at other times, they were slow, and sometimes they confused courses. While our shellfish was consistently well prepared, our grilled mahi mahi sandwich was overcooked, and the crunchy crab roll we ordered was mediocre at best. To be fair, the restaurant’s sushi is very popular with customers, and we only tried one roll from the dozen or so offered during lunch.
Still, these concerns don’t dim my appreciation for an unpretentious restaurant shaping a seafood niche in a town dominated by barbecue, chains, and chef-driven dining. Add in Bragg’s prodigious skills and propensity for regional cooking, and I’m betting my Sharky’s vacation just might turn into a regular family night out.
Pamela Denney is food editor of Memphis magazine and writes the blog Memphis Stew at memphismagazine.com/blogs/memphis-stew.