This is the second in a series of articles in which we explore 7 Local Restaurants the Tourists Don’t Know About.
For this place, I had to come two different times to get information for my article. I made the trip there mid-week last week during lunch time, but upon walking in, I knew that was a mistake. It was busting at the seams! It didn’t look like there was but one table open. I asked to speak with a manager to see if there was a later time, and was told to come back one of the following days in the mid to late afternoon.
The second time I came in, I was able to speak with J.Michael’s daughter, Rachel, for a little while. She also gave me the number to contact J.Michael so that I could talk to the founder of this incredible joint himself. I gave him a call as I was leaving the restaurant and he told me to come right on back in because he wanted to give me a taste of what it was all about! Of course, I was more than willing and excited for this treat!
With that said, here is what J.Michael’s is all about!
All The Basics
Who to go to? J.Michael’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar
What they serve? Lunch and Dinner
Where to be? 3210 Thomas Drive, right in front of the light before the Bay bridge
When to go? Everyday, 11 AM — 10 PM
How to reach them? (850) 233-2055
How much to pay? About $10 for lunch, and around $15 for dinner
Ok, so according to Rachel, the most popular (cough, cough PACKED) times to eat there are either lunch on Wednesdays or Thursdays, or for dinner on weekend nights. I definitely saw how busy it can get when I came the first time. It was insane that I had never peeked my head in the place before with how much traffic it has. Apparently, my parents were ahead of me, seeing as they had already eaten there a couple of times before. I can’t believe they ate at J.M’s without me.
Any how, they offer a great selection of home-cookin’, turf, and plenty of surf. For starters, J. Michael’s is definitely the “oysters-can-be-made-basically-however-you-want-to-eat-them-at-any-quantity” kind of place, and it’s amazing. They have your classic reubens, favorite fish sandwiches, and big half-pounder burgers, while offering a flavorful top sirloin, a variety of shrimp dishes, and hearty seafood gumbo.
The local picks (other than the oysters) tend to be their steak, roast beef supreme, or shrimp J.Michael. Rachel’s, J.Michael’s, and most of the employees’ favorite meal is their red beans and rice, though. This great selection of food is all homemade, of course, right down to the cocktail sauce! And as you may have also assumed, the seafood and breads they serve are all from local suppliers. Awesome, right?
In addition, they claim to offer the coldest draft beer in the area! I wouldn’t know though, because well, I can’t, nor would choose to drink at all. So anyway, you guys will have to find out for me, and comment below to put this mystery to rest!
To start off, this joint has had the same owner for 35 years now: J.Michael Stuart. He’s done a great job of making it incredibly family oriented, kid-friendly, and locally populated, with the help of his daughter. When a restaurant is family owned and operated, you know you’re in for a great time, with some good food, all in a pretty neat environment. Even though all of J.Michael’s employees aren’t family members of his, they all act like they are. You can tell that they have such a fun time at work, always helping each other out, cracking jokes on their fellow “siblings”, and daring to poke fun at “Boss-man” when they get the chance. Laughter lives at J.Michael’s! Together, they’ve all helped to serve 2.3 million people, just last year!
I was quite impressed by how dedicated J.Michael is to his business. He doesn’t just watch it run itself, like some restaurant owners do. Oh, no! The first thing he did when he came in for the day was to go behind the side bar, slip on a glove and start shuckin’ oysters with employee Tyler. I was sitting right in front of Tyler, just chatting, when he entered, so I wasn’t entirely sure that was even the owner until someone called him “Boss-man”. He shucked until he and Tyler were done with all of the many orders of oysters, and I thought that was pretty darn cool.
It shows how confident in his business J.Michael is, as he tells me that they “make it right”. It doesn’t take conviction from him for me to believe it, either. To those of you that have never checked them out before, J.Michael states how they “are like a book you’ve never read with an ugly cover. But don’t be afraid to come in, see what the stories are all about, and give it a try!” It was incredible timing after he said this, seeing as a few seconds following, a customer walks up to him and says, “I want to shake your hand. This is the first time me and my family have eaten here, and we were really impressed at what a nice job you do. Good food, and great service!” That, right there, is what happens when you read the J.Michael’s story.
J.Michael’s has had three different locations, each one being more successful than the last. No matter what the location, though, people continually brought in things for him to put up all around the restaurant. The decor is certainly consumer oriented, with dollar bills and surfboards covering the beams on the ceiling and sections of the wall that aren’t already plastered by locals’ photos and seaside motif.
The place most certainly feels out-on-the-bay, with a southern touch. For instance, there are guns hanging everywhere! J.Michael told me that he started out with 2 or 3 guns, but once people saw he had those, many others decided to give him their rifles and such as well. So, he just started hanging them off of the ceiling. I thought it looked pretty neat!
When J.Michael told me he would “give me a taste”, I had no idea he meant he would give me four different dishes to try! But they were oh-so-wonderful! First I tried the employee favorite: red beans and rice. It was a total southern flavor, with nothing frilly. It was just good, hearty food; just like how it would be made at home. Next was the seafood gumbo. I could taste how very fresh the seafood was, and the blend of flavors overall was super nice.
Next, I tried the famous Shrimp J.Michael, which had such a strong homemade essence, exploded with freshness, and had a wonderful slight spiciness attributed to just the right amount of curry. For all 3 of these dishes, I found myself using all of my bread to sop up all of the leftover sauces and juices!
Last but certainly not least, J.Michael ordered me up a fried shrimp basket. Those, i dare say, were THE BEST fried shrimp I have ever had, and I’ve had a lot of fried shrimp. They were so big and plump, had the perfect seasoning, a nice light breading, and were full of impeccable flavor so much that there was no dipping sauce required! Sooooo good!
I know it’s not just talk when J.Michael told me, “Our #1 goal is the customer, and that has to come out to produce joy, quantity, quality, and price.” As far as I’m concerned, they get a check, check, check, and check!!!
Links to the Other Articles
Introductory Article: 7 Local Restaurants the Tourists Don’t Know About
Tuesday Breakfast: Fatty Patty’s Cakes & Cafe