By LAURA Reiley
Times Food Critic
NORTH REDINGTON BEACH
The biggest size was really a bucket, piping-hot golden fries splayed out the top like porcupine quills. You doused them in malt vinegar and sat on the boardwalk watching the surfers and the shubees posturing every summer weekend. It was Ocean City, Md., and Thrasher fries were a local institution that went all the way back to 1929.
Pat Bearry, 45, has brought that Maryland delicacy along with a few others to the beach here, opening the Shubee Shack in July. He's a shubee himself. His definition: "It's an individual who looks, acts and talks like a surfer but who has never been on a surfboard. I've also heard it's someone who carried their possessions in a shoebox during the Depression." In his case, let's go with the former.
He came down from Annapolis, Md., to become a Sarasota deputy sheriff, but after blowing out his ankle he decided to re-create a Maryland-style snack shack instead. It's not fancy, no credit cards, nowhere to sit. Order at the counter and Bearry, a huge man with an unruly mop of hair held in check with a bandanna, gets to work. Old Bay is used liberally on the goodies that come out of the deep fryer, everything tucked carefully into Styrofoam to-go containers while he kibitzes.
The crab balls ($8.75) are pure Chesapeake Bay, a pile of jumbo lumps held together by nothing more than a little mayo and mustard and one egg per pound, cracker crumbs only in the rare event that the assemblage needs a bit of backbone. Four scoops of this are formed into balls, tipped gently into the fryer basket and rendered golden and crispy, a sprinkle of salt and Old Bay their only accessories.
The accompanying fries ($3 by themselves) are indeed Thrasher-like (real potatoes, brown, crunchy and moist-centered), but you wouldn't want to miss the Shubee chips ($3). Peek over the counter while Bearry slices sweet potatoes thinly on a mandoline, dumps them in the fryer, then serves them with a butter, marshmallow and brown sugar dipping sauce — Thanksgiving flavors rendered all new atop those crunchy, hot chips.
Anglers have other reasons to shamble to Shubee: Sandwiches are piled high with Boar's Head meats, "waxed" to your specifications (I suppose that's surfer talk for kitted out with lettuce, tomato, onions and other garnishes) and assembled carefully in a "skeg" (another surf allusion, this time meaning a roll) so that they can be eaten one-handed while casting or driving a boat with the other. You can build your own or go for one of a handful of signature sandwiches, a nice one the "Redington" ($6.50) stuffed with sliced turkey, cheese, green apple slices and honey mustard.
On Thursdays this former Baltimore city cop makes soups that have already drawn a devoted following: You'll see people exiting carefully with pint containers of seafood chowder or shrimp bisque. Stuck off to the side of Sporty's Bar with a surfboard demurely announcing its location, it's not surprising that Shubee Shack has become something of an insider secret to beach locals.
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Read her dining blog at tampabay.com/blogs/dining. Reiley dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.