What's cooking | BeckyJack's Food Shack
WEEKI WACHEE — Take a scenic drive west on Cortez Boulevard toward Bayport, about 2 miles down the road from the mermaid home of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, and on the left you'll see a tiny offbeat bistro called BeckyJack's Food Shack.
To some, the venue with its mismatched chairs and tables and funky, laid-back decor may not rate a second glance. But if visual aesthetics are your sole criteria for choosing a spot to dine out, you'll miss out on one of the best-kept foodie secrets in Hernando County.
Folks in the know have come to recognize BeckyJack's as a comfortable, affordable regular stop where simple, flavorful home-cooked burgers, wings and seafood and tasty craft beers are king.
In 2009, the husband-and-wife team of Kim Curtis and Joe Foster took over the former establishment that had been operated for more than 30 years by the late Becky De La Rosa. For good luck, they added the name of their late friend and former boss Jack Newkirk, who owned the popular Newk's Cafe sports bar in Tampa.
Armed with years of experience in the restaurant industry, the couple wanted to host patrons in an unpretentious manner and create an atmosphere that they themselves would want to visit.
"Joe and I worked in restaurants most of our lives," Curtis said. "We learned that food doesn't have to be expensive to be good. But it does have to be fresh, and it has to taste good. That's pretty much all we try to do."
The fairly limited lunch/early dinner menu leans heavily toward Southern-style seafood such as crab cakes and fresh chowder, plus off-the-beaten-path items such as fresh yellow fin tuna fish tacos ($8.50).
The fried "crunchy fish" sandwich ($8) is a signature favorite of the regulars. It includes an oversized white fish fillet rolled in a batter of cornflake crumbs and toasted almonds that's topped with lettuce, tomato and pickle on a grilled kaiser roll.
Burgers ($7) are huge here, with five juicy half-pound versions that practically swallow up the plate. Patrons can order them with topping choices ranging from grilled mushrooms, onions and Swiss cheese to pepper jack cheese or a BeckyJack's original called Sweet Heat.
BeckyJack's beer menu boasts no fewer than 13 craft brews on tap, including regular and seasonal varieties by Goose Island, Magic Hat and Blue Point.
Although the restaurant is frequented mostly by locals, Curtis said word-of-mouth buzz on Facebook and foodie websites has helped make BeckyJack's a destination for folks from all over the Tampa Bay area.
"We like the fact that people think we're worth coming a long way for," she said. "Seeing new faces all the time makes it a lot of fun for us."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]