TJ's Seafood Shack Featured in Seminole Chronicle!

Written on June 2, 2011

Thanks to Stephanie Levitt of the Seminole Chronicle for writing a great article about us for the May 19-25, 2011 "Lifestyles" section of the Chronicle!

For those of you who might have missed the article, here it is:

GO FISH!

TJ's gives Oviedo a taste of the shore
By Stephanie Levitt
THE CHRONICLE

Many have lived in Seminole County for years, but the taste of an authentic Maryland crab cake or Louisiana po'boy was just a dream in the hearts of Florida.

While it may not be the bayou, Seminole County does have a fairy god restaurant to make seafood dreams come true.  Bippity.  Boppity.  TJ's Seafood Shack.

"Seafood is something that I love, but we noticed that it was a missing niche in the market.  There was no good, campy seafood restaurant," said Tim Shepardson, who co-owns TJ's Seafood Shack with his sister, Mary Strickland.

Three years ago, Shepardson, with 25 years of experience in the restaurant business, decided to settle near his extended family and moved to Oviedo.

Hoping to continue his restaurateur roots, he then began urging his sister who, at the time, managed a law office, to go into the business with him.  "That's how I sold her.  I said 'How exciting is managing a law firm?  Come open a restaurant with me,"' Shepardson said.  "Seafood is something that we love  …  so we brought the coastal seafood shack to Central Florida."  Strickland, Shepardson's partner in business, is quick to point out their menu options, which were made purposefully to be all-inclusive.

"Our motto is, 'Seafood galore and a whole lot more,' " she said, gesturing to their insignia, which features TJ the dolphin, the restaurant's mascot, chowing down on a hamburger.  "We even sold fifteen hamburgers at lunch today."

All of the food, from the fish to the burgers, is fresh.

TJ's Seafood Shack never uses frozen chicken, but does use high-quality black angus meat and whole protein foods.

In fact, Shepardson likes hearing that the restaurant has sold out of something.

"If you sell out, it means you're always keeping it fresh!" he said.

From the chowder, an old family recipe, to the staff, composed of only fifteen local college students, to the picture of Shepardson and Strickland's grandmother from the 1960s that adorns the wall, TJ's Seafood Shack has a goal to exude a family-friendly atmosphere.

"Our motto is great food in a fun environment at affordable prices.  I think that's how we've managed to continue growing in this down economy," said Shepardson.

As a self-defined, "very, very old man who is set in his ways," local professor emeritus Dr. Stephen Messner knows what he likes.

"There's something unusual about this place.  The food prep is done with T.L.C.  They're very particular about what they serve.  I sneak in at least once a week to get a fish taco before I go to the gym."

With that being said, the fish tacos have helped to make TJ's Seafood Shack well known in Oviedo said Shepardson.  /however, the proof is in the awards.  They placed first in the Taste of Oviedo's Best Restaurant contest last year and have continued their winning streak  this yearly swiping the award for the third time with their buffalo mahi sandwich sliders.

The focus at TJ's is on the food.  "Not the silverware," said Stephen Messner, "that's plastic."

Without fancy finery, TJ's Seafood Shack keeps it's customers with daily specials.  Saturday nights are margarita nights, where the tike hut located outside of the restaurant is put to work.  "People like the fun," said Shepardson.

Periodically on Saturdays, TJ's also hosts a family oyster roast.  "It's kind of a Southern tradition," Shepardson said.  "Just take a bunch of oysters, crack 'em open, and put 'em on the grill.  It's a laid-back, low-country thing to do."

On Mondays, kids eat free.  "Thursday nights are dollar draft nights," said server Cassie Chesley, a twenty-two-year-old student at the University of Central Florida.  "We've just started getting a good beer collection, so TJ's is growing as a young peoples place as well."

If you want to test TJ's Seafood Shack's taste and ambiance out for yourself, check out their menu at www.tjsseafoodshack.com.

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