Macs Acadian Seafood Shack, the enormously popular Saline mainstay, is named for the homeland of Louisianas Cajuns in what are now the Maritime provinces of Canada. Its menu includes Cajun standards; the changing fresh catch selection includes fish plucked from North Atlantic waters; and the steamed mussels come from Prince Edward Island.
But, fortunately, Macs isnt wedded to the Acadian theme. Instead, the restaurant has successfully fashioned itself as a thoroughly Midwestern fried fish and steak spot where neighbors can grab beers after work, couples can celebrate coinciding anniversaries, and shy high school boys can take their dates for dinner before prom. From what I saw, most of the cheery diners who nightly crowd Macs massive divided dining room stick with deep-fried shrimp and deep-fried lake perchand if youre seeking an edible explanation of why its necessary to make a reservation for a weekend night table, you probably should too.
By my count, there are more than three dozen entrées on Macs dinner menu, not counting the surf-and-turf combination plates or weekly specials. While a boon to large parties of co-workers and relatives with incompatible palates, the long menu is seeded with potential pitfalls. Dishes with gourmet pretensions fall flat, a disappointment made more agonizing by the kind and well-trained service staff, who cluck with concern over uneaten entrées. It would surely be better for everyone if the shrimp and crawfish étouffée wasnt unpleasantly gummy and the char-grilled swordfish had interacted with a saltshaker before leaving the kitchen.
But corrective experiences abound, with the first available just a few paces from the door. Macs boisterous, crescent-shaped bar is a fine place for a pint, but it also serves startlingly affordable raw oysters: $7 buys a half-dozen during happy hour, with the price climbing a mere $2 after 6 p.m. Thats an extraordinarily good deal for delicate, oceanic Blue Points and Malpeques. Served with a well-balanced mignonette, heap of horseradish, and cocktail sauce, the raw oyster platters a reasonable excuse for refusing to abandon your slat-backed wooden bar stool when the hostess comes calling.
Yet if youre willing to be roused, another highlight awaits at table: every meal at Macs starts with chewy, butter-soaked poppy seed rolls that patrons of Real Seafood Co. will instantly recognize. According to our server, Macs buys Real Seafoods dough, and the supple hot bread plays just as well in the southern part of the county.
Macs isnt stingy about refilling rolls, a bit of generosity that almost compensates for the lackluster quality of its ambitious appetizers. My seared wedges of ahi tuna caked with sesame seeds werent fully thawed, and accompanying pools of soy sauce and glaciers of wasabi couldnt mask the icy fishs bland flavor. Jambalaya, ornamented with salty andouille sausage and overcooked shrimp, was murky. A proudly tropical serving of coconut shrimp was tidily fried, yet at the same meal, nuggets of gator meat were sodden with aging oil.
Soups and salads were more pleasing. While the mustardy dressing on a Caesar was applied too liberally, the greens were fresh and the brown anchovies were perky. A purple cabbage slaw, slathered in mayonnaise, sounded the right fried-fish-dinner notes. And a cup of gumbo bobbing with diced tomatoes, a stew that proved to be the most impressive of Macs Cajun-inflected dishes, was robust and peppery.
All entrées are served with a choice of side dish. Potato pancakes sound intriguing, but the batter was swamped with egg. My redskin potatoes were so overcooked they could have been eaten with a spoon. The french fries and rice pilaf were decent.
The adjective to chase when entrée shopping at Macs is fried: Broiled whitefish was mushy, and sautéed rainbow trout was deluged with far too much parsley-flecked lemon butter. But deep-fried lake perch tasted just as fried fish should: the fish was meaty and sweet, and the thinly applied golden fry was admirably clean.
The perch is best followed by a slice of zippy key lime pie with a crackery crust. The pies not fancy, and it certainly isnt Acadianin the Maritimes, meals traditionally end with baked apple dumplingsbut its the perfect dessert to cap a fish fry that eaters from anywhere could understand.
Macs Acadian Seafood Shack
104 E. Michigan, Saline, 9446227
Mon.Fri., 11:30 a.m.10 p.m., Sat. noon11 p.m., Sun. 48:30 p.m. Appetizers $8.95$10.95, dinner salads and burgers $7.95$13.50, entrées $16.95$33.95.