Calico Jacks is located on Capital Circle NE in an unassuming tan building with ample parking on three sides. My friend Joe joined me for lunch, and after finding a spot we made our way towards the restaurant. On the large patio a few solitary patrons sipped long necks. It was 11:30 a.m.
Opening the front door we were greeted by a waitress, and we made our way to the left side of the bar. We were the only people in this part of the restaurant and had our picks of seats. We sat down and the bar tender/oyster shucker dropped off two well worn menus. They needed to be wiped down with some cleaner and perhaps re-laminated.
The menu ran the gambit from the expected bar food appetizers (potato skins); to hamburgers; and seafood. Joe decided to go for the Mahi Mahi basket while I opted for a dozen raw oysters. If it had been after 5 o'clock I would have also ordered a beer, but since it was during working hours opted for the more responsible choice of a coke. The bartender told me he had to shuck three others people's orders before he could get to mine. I didn't mind and took in the atmosphere while snacking on an appetizer of saltine crackers doused with hot sauce.
The restaurant is shaped like a horseshoe and smelled like stale beer. The floors behind the bar and under our seats were grungy. Lobster traps and fishing nets hung from the ceiling. Posters advertising beer specials were plastered about the space. Along the bar stools lined each side with numerous TVs showing various sports related programming. In the middle of the bar was a small boat, which served as a resting place for a remote control, and a pink cup holding various tools. It conjured images of a fraternity house basement that always had a certain funk to it even when it was scrubbed for parents weekend.
After 15 minutes my oysters started to be shucked. He popped the top shell, tossed it in a long trough running the length of the bar, and placed the slimy bivalve onto a plate in front of me. I waited until all twelve were lined up before picking the first one up. The oyster was fresh and tasted like the ocean. Joe enjoyed his meal when it arrived despite them giving him the wrong side item.
There is no way around it, Calico Jacks is a dive, but I love it. It is a place that would be at home down on the coast packed with locals and tourist looking for good food at a reasonable price. It may not be trendy, but I embrace Calico Jacks for what it is: a local place with a divey vibe slinging fresh oysters, seafood and cold beer.
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