I don't expect much from chain restaurants. After all, since the purpose of a chain is to provide the exact same experience across multiple locations, there isn't any room for creativity. So when I went into the Geyer Springs location of Shark's Fish and Chicken, I figured that I was in for something along the lines of a shotgun marriage between Captain D's and Popeye's — which was close, if you add in about half a cup of table salt and a heaping helping of stink-eye.
My day job is in Southwest Little Rock, and while I'll be the first to admit that the place is rough around the edges, I've found no shortage of good things to eat served up by friendly folks. I've been in my share of places where the folks behind the counter seemed to think it was a real pain to take my order and serve me food, and Shark's was easily the worst offender in this regard. On a street where the carhops at Sonic of all places give you their first names and tell you to be sure and let them get you whatever you want, there's really no excuse for any chain restaurant to be as rude as this one.
Here's the scene: it's 12:30 on a Sunday afternoon, and I've just failed in my attempt to eat at a new Vietnamese place over on Asher — it's closed despite the "Open 7 Days" emblazoned on the awning out front. The wife expresses a craving for catfish, and since I'm already in Southwest, I figure why not try that Shark's place I'm always driving past. Enter the dining room, we're the only ones there. The Disney channel blares from a TV on the wall. A girl sits behind the counter. She stares at us, unspeaking. A young man stands near her, behind a cash register. He also stares, silent. We walk up, place our orders: one catfish platter, one order of chicken gizzards. The young man writes it down, rings it up, and the first words he speaks to us is our total. We take a seat and wait. And wait. And wait. Finally the order hits the counter and the girl pushes the bags toward us, again without a word. We leave.
So, okay, not the best customer service experience, but the food smells pretty good and we drive back home to dig in. The catfish filets are large, well-cooked — but they're just a touch over-salted. Still, they're edible enough that my wife is happy, and while she says she won't go back again due to the service, her fish is fine. I open my gizzards, and I'm initially pleased: a huge portion of crisp fried gizzards, and there's even hot sauce for dipping. Upon closer inspection, I notice that the gizzards at the top are visibly salty — I can actually see a fine layer of salt on them. Sure enough, first bite, salt bomb. I dig to the bottom, hopping that maybe it's just the top layer that's too salty — no luck. The whole pile of gizzards is rendered completely inedible from a massive dose of salt. Salt in the batter, extra salt on top. I still can't figure out if this is just the way they do things or if this was some sort of revenge for interrupting a quiet Sunday afternoon.
Needless to say, I can't recommend Shark's Fish and Chicken on Geyer Springs to any of you. The service is of the type that gives Southwest Little Rock a bad name, and the suspiciously salty food doesn't help that impression. There's another location on Roosevelt, and one in North Little Rock, and these are possibly better — this was certainly a meal that didn't have be nearly as bad as it was. Have any of you tried the place? Was this just an off day or is it normally like that?