You don’t expect to get Ceviche, Shrimp Louie, or slipper lobster tail at a gaming bar. But anything can happen in Vegas, and Shuck’s Gaming & Oyster Bar proves it.
Frank Wanamaker is Corporate Chef for all three Shuck’s properties in Vegas and in Henderson. He manages to spend time at each of the locations throughout the week, making sure that they are delivering items such as the Clam Bake and The Big Mother-Shucker, a burger you have to see to believe. He’s also busy thinking up new creations—something he’s been doing since 1998, when an old friend of his called him.
“Steve Meatovich and Bob Buist are the co-owners,” he recounts. “Steve had been the manager at a fine dining seafood restaurant where I had worked since I was 17. He called me even before they had blueprints. We had a blank piece of paper and developed it from scratch.”
Wanamaker said the concept centered around a seafood gaming bar; Shuck’s is now the only privately owned seafood gaming bar he knows of in the Vegas area.
“Gaming is our bread and butter,” says Wanamaker, “so if you came in at 3 a.m. to play a little, and you wanted Oysters on the Half Shell, this is where you can have it.” In fact, they serve a full menu 24/7, which helps with the Vegas swing shift workers who want to unwind at the end of their day (whenever that may be). “We’re off the strip so locals and casino industry people all come,” he explains.
“I just want to serve them a great meal,” he says. “Our customers receive the freshest seafood that’s out there in Las Vegas, thanks to modern technology.” Those meals include those slipper lobster tails, split in half, dipped in Panko batter, fried with house spices and served with Cholula lemon butter.
They include Shrimp Ceviche (click for the recipe) that has been marinated in fresh lime, and served with a cold dijon sauce, chilled Seafood Louie that includes shrimp, crab, and yet more lobster, and an amazingly large and tasty Clam Bake that includes three kinds of crab, a full pound of Manilla clams and more, served in an oversized clam shell.
Wanamaker is very specific about the quality of his ingredients. “We get the Manila clams that you can only get from the Pacific Northwest,” he says. “It’s a more tender meat, as opposed to a littleneck.”
And then there is the burger. It’s not just any burger; it’s what they call “The Big Mother-Shucker,” a full one-pound patty stuffed with bacon and cheese, then topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled mushrooms, more cheese, fried onion straws and a secret “mother shucken” sauce, all on a giant—and we mean giant—toasted bun.
The restaurant itself is full of what Wanamaker calls, “family at the bar,” with regulars who come in to cheer on their team or slurp some fresh oysters. The chef is able to greet them by name as he walks around, checking on his customer’s needs and making sure the food is to their liking—which it invariably is.
Shuck’s considers itself part of its community, and gives back accordingly. “We sponsor WAKA Kickball,” says Wanamaker, referring to the World Adult Kickball Association, “and every year we sponsor a camp—Camp Cartwheel—where underprivileged children can go, including all the food for a Friends and Family picnic.” To Wanamaker, it’s all part of what it means to serve your customers.
That’s also why they offer a $3.95 breakfast menu every day, and have a “Build Your Own” concept that has proven popular. Wanamaker says his customers love the fish tacos, his original creation. “They have a dressing that includes pureed roasted red peppers, cilantro and lime juice,” he says. It’s all because when they added the tacos to the menu, they forgot about the salsa. “So, we started making our own,” he laughs.
“My chef instructor once said, ‘Learn all the basics, then break all the rules,’” says Wanamaker. “I try to incorporate that into my cooking.”
And that, apparently, is why you can get Ceviche, Shrimp Louie, and slipper lobster at a gaming bar in Vegas.
See our Food Channel interview featuring Wanamaker and our own Christen Nehmer, here.
Hear more directly from Executive Chef Wanamaker, here.
For the Shrimp Ceviche recipe and video, click here.
Visit Shuck’s when you are in the Las Vegas area:
7155 N. Durango Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89149-4466
2090 E. Serene Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89123-3219
9338 W. Flamingo Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89147-6414
This is a Raves & Faves Featured Restaurant.