Ever since I went to coast as a boy to eat fried claims and feed the seagulls I have had a soft spot for seafood shacks. The food was usually fried and came on paper plates. The beers were served in thin plastic cups. Seating was provided by simple wooden picnic tables. As the food cooked ocean air and grease brewed an aphrodisiac that when mixed with the breeze off the salt marshes was unforgettable.
We recently spent a weekend in Jacksonville, Florida. We took the kids to the zoo, a baseball game, and to see their great-grandparents. Before heading home we decided to drive out to Mayport and have lunch at Singleton's Seafood Shack. The ride on 1A wound over the intracoastal waterway, past run down strip malls, and along secluded inlets. Eventually we arrived at our destination. The sky was dark and as we pulled into the parking lot rain began to fall. We grabbed the kids out of the car and made our way towards a low slung building with a long orange sign. A life preserver, nautical rope and a creepy looking parrot decorated the front.
Walking up a short ramp we entered the restaurant. To the right was the kitchen where cooks scurried about like sand crabs. In front of us was a bar and behind that the dining area. Singleton's lived up to its name of a shack as the interior was constructed of exposed plywood. Michelob themed lamps hung overhead and a series of wooden tables and benches filled the dining area. At the back was a screened in porch that was closed due to inclement weather. The hostess made eye contact with us and immediately sat us towards the rear where we could watch ships make their way along the last stretch of the St. Johns river before entering the Atlantic. Our waitress appeared and took our drink order. She returned with our cokes and crayons for the kids. As they drew Becky and I checked out the menu. After a brief deliberation we both decided to go with the seafood combo. I opted for fried shrimp and fried oyster while she went for fried shrimp and grilled scallops.
The wait for our meal was short, and before we could finish watching a large orange cargo ship pass by, the food slid onto the table. Our meals were served on rectangular blue Styrofoam plates piled high with fried seafood and side items. The kids munched on French fries and hush puppies while I focused on the shrimp and oysters. They were lightly breaded and a beautiful golden brown color. The shrimp came in several sizes, from jumbo all the way down to medium. The oysters were large and tender. The sides were a complete afterthought as I worked myself into a fried seafood coma. The French fries were of the crinkle cut variety and the slaw was standard. Both served their purpose in a workmanlike manner.
Becky also enjoyed her fried shrimp, scallops, baked potato, and Cole slaw. During the meal she let me try one of her grilled scallops. They were silver dollar sized and nicely seared. I popped one into my mouth and immediately had seafood combo envy. The interiors were moist and sweet. They were the best thing I ate during our meal and she said I could have another one. While she focused on Mason I skillfully stabbed two more with my fork and retreated back to my plate.
We were all stuffed by the end of our meal and asked for a box to take the left-overs home. The service during our meal was attentive and polite. The restaurant for being an actual shack was well kept. Overall, I really enjoyed our dinner at Singleton's and cannot wait to get back. Next time I would really like to try their Minorcan clam chowder and a full order of their grilled scallops. I would also love to sit on the back deck and let the kids take in one of the most memorable smells of my childhood.
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