Let’s just lay it on the line: “Juicy Seafood” is a weird name for a restaurant.
We think of juicy steaks, juicy burgers, juicy fruit. Even, alas, the ill-fated Juicy Couture. But juicy seafood? It gives us pause.
Located in Little Rock’s Pleasant Ridge West complex and housed in the former Johnny Carino’s building, Juicy Seafood aims for the seafood-dining niche between fast-food and high-end. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming, the decor is nautical and the staff is exceptionally friendly. Any suspicion of pretense was gone once the hostess seated us and added a sheet of butcher paper to cover our table.
Our server was with us quickly, bringing the good news that it was happy hour. Juicy Seafood has a full bar and offers several tropical and beach-themed drink selections. Our dining partner ordered the Coconut Pineapple Margarita ($5 during happy hour) and reported that it “tasted like
The server made a friendly and welcome offer to explain the menu for first-timers. The ordering process has three steps: One, choose your seafood. Juicy offers crab legs, crawfish, oysters, clams, mussels, lobsters and shrimp (either “with heads” or kindly “with no heads”). You can order a “combo” of corn, sausage
We ordered up two of the combos and were provided plastic bibs and gloves, discovering why they call the place Juicy Seafood. The combos are presented hot and steaming, jumbled together, inside plastic bags atop round metal trays and simmering in their own spiced-up juices. Bibbed and gloved, we tore open our respective bags and got to work
Our dining partner feasted on the Shrimp With No Heads & Crab Legs combo ($27), with garlic butter and medium-spiced. The deveined shrimp were plump, meaty and flavorful, and the combo included corn on the cob, two small boiled potatoes and slices of savory sausage.
Our table also enjoyed the Clams & Mussels combo ($23), which we ordered spicy hot with the Shake Sauce. Sometimes clams and mussels are more work than the reward is worth, but these were tender, not a rubbery bite in the bunch (although, as always, there were a few that didn’t open up during the steaming). We enjoyed the Shake Sauce combo of flavoring, but would probably dial down the spice level next time: Sometimes a bite would inadvertently include a heaping helping of spice and leave us in a momentary coughing fit.
Aside from the steamed-in-a-bag option, Juicy Seafood doesn’t really offer much else in the way of main dishes. There are four varieties of wings available ($5.50 for six, $9.50 for 12) along with a small array of salads ($9.99 each).
A return trip to Juicy Seafood for lunch was a bit of a disappointment. The lunch menu is limited, with a smaller number of steamed-in-a-bag options offered in lunch-sized portions ($8-$12), wings, and a collection of chicken, catfish and seafood baskets ($7-$10). We ordered the Fried Oyster Basket with sweet potato fries ($10) and received a rather bland pile of lukewarm brown and orange food. The flavors were uninspired and saved only by a side of cocktail sauce. Lunch is bargain-priced, but nothing to write home about, although the service was again notable for its friendliness. We’d recommend sticking with the steamed combo options for lunch if you have the time and appropriate wardrobe.
Juicy Seafood’s main event centerpiece is delicious and makes a visit well worth it. Roll up your sleeves, don the plastic protection, apologize to your dining partner in advance, and just dive right in.
11600 Pleasant Ridge Road
Juicy Seafood has a small list of appetizers, ranging $10-$12 (shrimp, oyster, catfish, soft shell crab) along with a market-priced offering of oysters on the half shell. Hours11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.
Happy hour is 4-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with 40 percent off most cocktails.