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By John Mullen
November 13, 2017 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA) – Richard Schwartz loves to talk about the family that is Doc’s Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar in Orange Beach. And share that with his customers, who after years of patronage also become like family.
A group of vacationing ladies who pick a different spot for their annual vacation and saw an advertisement for Doc’s “best fried shrimp in the civilized world” on their way to town.
“Sandy waited on them and they loved Sandy,” Schwartz said. “And I told them this is a family operation. See the man at the host station? That’s Sandy’s daddy. Her mama’s in the kitchen putting together to-go orders.
“They really liked our shrimp and came back several times during their visit.”
Doc's Shrimp
Family members permeate the staff at Doc’s. During its 34-year history, several mother-daughter combinations have worked as servers. Others’ children have been cashiers, bussed tables, seated guests or worked in the kitchen.
Schwartz just beams when he talks about the staff at Doc’s.
“They are great, they’re professional and they’re crazy,” he said. “Individually nuts and a delight to the customers. They enjoy the customers, too. And the customers enjoy them. That’s part of the glue of that whole place. All the different personalities.
“They’re all very good.”
But the food must be pretty good, too, because night after night guests are lined up out the door or filling the benches around the front of the restaurant. Some even bring bag chairs, pop the hatch of the SUV and tailgate in the parking lot while waiting to be seated.
“Best fried shrimp in the entire civilized world,” Schwartz likes to say. “I say that all the time and sometimes people look at me because I also say we have the world’s best gumbo. They try a bowl of gumbo and they agree with me. I run into people in restaurants from across the country and I tell ‘em we have the best. They think they have the best and that’s OK because that’s the way it ought to be. You ought to think you’re serving the best.
“But I believe it.”
Doc's OystersIf you like your seafood fried, this is your place. Not only shrimp but oysters, fish, soft-shelled crab and stuffed crab. Occasionally there’s a special fish-of-the-day or snapper throats or snapper fingers.
If you want your oysters fried in cornmeal, just ask. Doc’s is all about making the customer happy.
“We are a customer-oriented business,” Schwartz said. “We take care of the customer. When they come in there, somebody speaks to them and they mean it. The servers are really, good servers. There as good as they get, they are professionals and they know what they are doing.
“It tickles me to death when I see ‘em hug people when they come in.”
Interchangeable side choices include house-made Coleslaw, fries, hushpuppies, green beans, new potatoes, baked potato, corn on the cob or a side salad.
If you’d rather have baked, there’s a baked platter or get your fish or shrimp grilled or blackened. Raw oysters are a staple, but Doc’s will steam ‘em for you on request.
Doc's Onion RingsThere are some American staples on the menu as well. Some say Doc’s has the best fried chicken around, and it’s available every day on Doc’s meat-and-three lunch menu. There’s a different meat also offered each day from meatloaf to ribs to pork chops to baked chicken to hamburger steak.
But you can also order a sausage dog, chicken tenders, chicken wings or get a salad topped with fried or grilled seafood or chicken. The fresh onion rings are hand battered.
“We serve the same food year in and year out,” Schwartz said. “People like that. The menu doesn’t change, the prices may change and sometimes there might be a slight change in the menu. But basically, this is what we do and this is what we serve.”
Every now and then he gets a notion to class up the place, maybe add some soft touches. Somebody usually talks him out of it. Sometimes that person is Schwartz.
“I like the charm of the old place, it’s imperfectly perfect,” he said. “I’ve thought about things to dress it up and I’m just told, ‘don’t do that.’ I like the charm of it, but I don’t know what to do with it.
“I don’t have to fix it up. We are a fried seafood joint. I don’t know how we can make it prettier. It is what it is. It’s a seafood shack. We enjoy it as a seafood shack. We’ve been voted as one of the top 10 seafood shacks in America. Can’t top that.”
Check out Doc's Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar's page on the Orange Beach Community website.