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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
A PERSONAL REVIEW OF RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD

SHELLS
MELBOURNE, FLORIDA

Some of you---especially Floridians---are saying:  "Hold on a minute, that chain folded some time ago.  This can't be!"  And you're right, for the most part.  Allow me to digress for just a minute.

We first discovered Shells in the Clearwater area while visiting relatives sometime in the early 80s, as I recall.  Then when we moved to the Tampa Bay Area for our second go round in 1988, Shells was a popular and delicious franchise and going strong. 

They were famous for inexpensive seafood.  They always had fresh cherrystone clams, which I loved, and oysters on the half shell which were also top notch.

We left Florida for Detroit  in 1992 only to return in 2007 and Shells restaurants were still open around the state.  We sampled one in St. Petersburg Beach that year and it was awful.  Greasy, lousy food.  I thought to myself:  "What happened?"  We noticed another Shells in Daytona Beach but it would soon close along with all the rest.  Well all but one of the rest.

During a visit to the Melbourne and Melbourne Beach area, we discovered one that was still open.  We were with our daughter and her family and everybody wanted fresh seafood but we didn't want to pay a ton of money for dinner.  We found this Shells and I wondered first of all how it survived and secondarily whether the food would be awful.

I called the place before we left the hotel and grilled the person on the other end about how, before they went out of business, all the Shells had gone way down hill.  She assured me that this one was still great and that the reason it survived was because the proprietor actually owned the place.  It was not franchise owned.  We were told that this Shells is now the lone survivor in what had been, at one time, a wonderful, inexpensive seafood chain.  They even had a place in New York City years ago, a friend tells me.  And he related a very funny story.  When the place opened they were selling a dozen oysters on the half shell for $6.  Suspicious New Yorkers didn't go for 'em figuring anything that cheap wouldn't be good.  So they doubled the price and that got the oysters moving!  I don't know if that's a true tale but a good friend swears it accurate.

Okay the history lesson is over.  Down to the food at this old survivor!

We were there early and had been into the chips and dip on the beach a couple of hours earlier, so we weren't starving.  Three of the four adults got the early bird special fried seafood trio.  It came with fish, shrimp and clam strips along with parsley potatoes and cole slaw.  For the money it was a good deal and the food was pretty tasty although mine was a little overcooked and a bit greasy.  The other two who ordered the same thing found it great.  Our son-in-law got the char grilled Mahi Mahi and seemed moderately pleased.  Oh yeah, we started this meal off with an order of fried calamari (I found it greasy and one other diner agreed) and we also got one other starter.  I'm trying to think what it was and I think it was fried cheese sticks for the kids to throw.

Nobody bothered with dessert.  Overall this was a good but not a great meal.  One thing that was not pleasant was the extremely slow service.  We were in the restaurant for nearly two hours including the wait for the table.  But then again this was a busy night for the place and it was packed with nothing but locals.

Here's the bottom line.  If you're looking for half way decent, inexpensive seafood and you're not really picky, this is a good choice.

For complete details on this lone surviving Shells including location and menu, check out their web site here.