My wife jumped when she discovered A.W. Shucks in Carmel. We arrived for a one night stay in Monterey and the discovery came right out of the hotel's menu book while I checked in.
The restaurant is on Carmel's main drag, surrounded by all those upscale stores and hidden alleyways in a place I have always enjoyed. The hostess took our cell #, then called a half hour later to let us know that our counter space was ready. That's right, everyone sits high at one of several bars. We got lucky. Our seats were right up close to the shucking action.
Not being an oyster person, I ordered the calimari with a side of clam chowder. My much more adventuresome spouse, however, just had to have a dozen raw, also with chowder on the side.
She declared the fresh oysters, attractively served about 60 seconds after shucking, as some of the best she's ever had. Four varieties were on the plate, all great.
My calimari, while not the best ever (that distinction goes to Tadish Grill in San Francisco), were just a point or two lower. The only slight disappointment was the chowder. It was a full step below the best, but still very good. Served with nice oyster crackers and a really nice crusty slices of sweet french bread, the bowl is quite filling.
Our seats afforded us front-row visibility as the chefs cooked and assembled large plates of the restaurant's wide choices. Non-oyster lovers will find plenty to like here. Servings are generous and presentations are attractive.
We also ordered the local wheat beer from Carmel Brewing. It was a genuine hefeweizen in flavor, very enjoyable and refreshing with no hint of bitterness that some American wheat beers seem unable to shuck (pun unintended).
We were too full to go for dessert but noted that the key lime pie was darn tempting.
A.W. Shucks in Carmel is small so expect a wait most nights. Highly recommended and I hope they open in my home town. We'd be regulars. The price is not exactly low -- our dinner exceeded $60. Worth every penny.