Next year, North Carolina-based seafood chain Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar plans to open its first Illinois location, bringing oysters, lobster rolls, and low country boils to suburban Geneva, about 35 miles west of Chicago.
Originally founded in 2007 in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, Shuckin’ Shack began franchising in 2014. It has since expanded into 16 locations across its home state, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, and Florida, according to reps. The restaurant would be the second in Illinois — LondonHouse Chicago being the other — to be part of the James Beard Foundation’s Smart Catch Program, a list of restaurants committed to sustainably sourced shrimp, oysters, and more. Locally, the Shedd Aquarium has organized a similar effort. The restaurant is known for a menu of oyster shooters, plus chicken wing surf-and-turf plates, family-style steam pots, and sides like hushpuppies.
The Howards are in the midst of lease negotiations for a space inside a new development on the border of St. Charles and Geneva, and aim to open by late spring or early summer 2022. Should the Geneva restaurant prove successful, they say they’d consider branching out to other suburban areas in Illinois.
Shuckin’ Shack’s story isn’t too different from other seafood chains that have set up in the Midwest. The company is in search of expansion, and in Geneva, wife-and-husband franchisees Angie and Kyle Howard say they were drawn in by the chain’s casual atmosphere, the kind seen at raw bars in Maine and Massachusetts.
“It’s like that vacation seafood place that you happened upon and have great memories of in Florida or on the East Coast,” Angie Howard says, parroting the company’s talking points. The pair both spent much of their careers in the corporate world, which allowed them to travel and try seafood all over the U.S. The Howards feel the chain is special and hope Geneva will be a good fit.
Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar Geneva, Geneva, Illinois, Scheduled to open in spring/summer 2022.