Pappas Restaurants offers diners options in styles ranging from barbecue and Tex-Mex to an ultra-luxurious steakhouse, but seafood is where the company really shines. It operates five Pappas Seafood restaurants across the Houston area; Cajun seafood restaurant Pappadeaux is the company's most popular brand, with the Bayou City being home to 13 of the establishment's 40 locations.
News that the company is testing a new seafood restaurant should excite Houstonians — particularly when that concept offers a lower price point than its corporate siblings.
Labeled Pappas Shrimp Shack, the company is quietly testing a menu for the new restaurant at the Pappas Seafood location at 6945 I-45 S. at Woodridge. The Shrimp Shack pop-up is ongoing and will continue for at least a few months, Pappas director of marketing Christina Pappas tells CultureMap, but the concept is so under the radar that it doesn't have a website or any social media accounts.
“[Pappas co-founder] Harris [Pappas] had an idea, and the chefs had an idea. We decided to pick a location and do a pop-up and see if we could get some traction,” Christina Pappas says. “It’s just a little test, and we’ll see what happens.”
Those ideas are built around a seafood restaurant that offers an extensive selection of dishes at a more affordable price point than its corporate siblings. Almost all of the entrees are under $30, and 14 of the 20 appetizers cost less than $10. Fried seafood baskets that offer everything from cod and catfish to shrimp and crawfish are priced at $16.95 or less for a single seafood and $22.95 to $33.95 for combinations that add on pricier ingredients like soft shell crab and scallops.
Grilled, seared, and blackened fish entrees that feature trout, mahi-mahi, and redfish cost between $16.95 and $23.95. Similar preparations — with admittedly more luxurious toppings like crab meat — run $30 or more at Pappadeaux.
Perhaps the most intriguing items on the Shrimp Shack menu are the two crab and shrimp combinations. Diners get a hearty portion of either Dungeness crab and shrimp for $24.95 or snow crab and shrimp for $28.95. Even better, the crab comes in three flavors: garlic, spicy, and a Chinese-style salt and pepper batter that pays subtle homage to Asiatown’s numerous seafood restaurants.
Overall, the menu demonstrates the company’s deep knowledge of seafood preparations and shows an ability to source quality ingredients. While a restaurant like Pappadeaux may be the sort of place a family could go once a month or for a special occasion, Shrimp Shack, at least in pop-up form, could be enjoyed more like once a week.
“We know seafood,” Pappas says. “We have wonderful relationships with purveyors and providers and fisherman. [The idea is] How can you expand on that and take this product knowledge and look at it from a new way?”
Pappas emphasizes that the company is just testing the Shrimp Shack concept for now and hasn’t made any decisions about whether to spin it off as a new restaurant. Still, it does have extensive real estate holdings across the Houston area. If the company's leadership decides to move forward, it won’t be hard to find a building to house the restaurant.
While Pappas typically comes off as conservative when it comes to new offerings, the Shrimp Shack pop-up does demonstrate a willingness to put itself out there and try something new.
“You can make decisions in spreadsheets, or you can make decisions on the ground,” she says. “We’re just going for it.”