By: Kristin Bourne
I’m going to give you the bad news first; The Criss Conch Shack is only open every week from Thursday through Sunday. If you can handle that, then the rest of the news of this new and already well-followed spot on Sandy Ground will be good.
What’s so great about the Criss Conch Shack? So many simply wonderful things…
Sandy Ground sunset
The Criss Conch Shack as seen from Sandy Ground beach
Sweet and smiling Criss and her husband Darren who live in Sandy Ground, are the people that literally go out in their boat, on to the sea and do the work to obtain fresh, local conch and lionfish and pot fish. Criss used to go out more often since now, she's busy prepping and cooking for the Conch Shack.
Meet Criss, a hard-working woman of many talents!
So, Darren and Criss bring back the goods, do all of the prep work and now what used to be more of an annual delight (around Anguilla Carnival time from a tent, each August), is now an established business housed in a mobile unit sitting on the sand in Sandy Ground, compete with tent and seating. You can now chow down on cracked conch on a regular basis.
This has made many people already familiar with cracked conch very happy.
Criss' cracked conch
While the cracked conch is special, that’s not all that’s offered at the Criss Conch Shack.
Orders of cracked conch, lionfish, and chicken tenders are all served in small styrofoam containers, each $8 US and they come with a fried Johnny cake and the Criss Conch Shack tartar sauce which is more like a remoulade and much better than your typical pickle-laden tartar sauce.
Cracked conch for those unfamiliar, is pounded conch. Pounded to make it as tender as possible, then breaded and fried and served with the Criss tartar sauce and lemons.
The lionfish I had was flavorful and melts in your mouth. It's also served with lemons.
Cracked conch (to the right), lionfish (to the left),
fried Johnny cakes, Criss Conch Shack sauce,
lots of lemons and seamoss to drink
Criss’ fried Johnny cakes (aka, fry cakes) now rank as some of my favorite on the island. They are a decent size, have excellent texture (crispy outside, soft inside) and just enough sweet in the dough. They are $1 US.
Although I haven’t had it yet, she does have conch soup on the menu and it’s only $6 US. I would expect it to be very good since this is conch family and who better to make conch soup?
Other menu items that vary from time to time are chicken tenders, chicken wings and saltfish. They also serve fry pot fish which ranges in price from $8 to $10 depending on your fish.
The local drinks are always a bonus to me… In Anguilla you will often find what are referred to as “local drinks” or “local juices” which are homemade drinks stored in reused water bottles and sometimes have a homemade label and sometimes not. Except for mauby, they tend to be on the sweet side.
Criss Conch Shack often has at least two to three different kinds to choose from at any given time, including tamarind, soursop, sorrel, passionfruit, ginger, lemonade, sea moss (regular, mint or peanut), and cherry. Local drinks are either $3 or $5 US. There’s also soda, water, beer and mixed drinks available.
Directions: The easiest way to reach the Criss Conch Shack is to drive to Sandy Ground and park in the sandy parking lot across the street from The Pumphouse and next to the Anguilla Youth Sailing Club. It can be considered beach front parking. Walk toward the beach and hang a right and walk north as if you are walking to Elvis’ Beach Bar.
The lights of Sandy Ground from Criss Conch Shack
Criss Conch Shack is in the green and blue painted mobile unit and has a white tent on the southern side with tables and chairs underneath. There is a sign on the truck side that faces the water.
Hours: As with many regional places of business, the hours are not set in stone but are roughly Thursday through Sunday opening from 6:30pm - 7pm and closing any where between 11pm and 1am. They generally open for breakfast on Saturday around 10am and stayed open all day but note they may close earlier than usual when they end up opening for breakfast.
Contact: It never hurts to call ahead (264-583-2644 and 264-772-0575) to make sure they're open and that they have what you might like to order since they have to rely on the weather and the sea for conch and fish.
If you appreciate made to order fresh conch, fresh fish, Johnny cakes and unpretentious places with nice people, don't be shy. Go get a fried food fix that is very rewarding!