You won’t believe how BeckyJack’s Food Shack is putting other restaurants out of business
Frank Fencil | firstname.lastname@example.org
WEEKI WACHEE — True economic power players are few and far between in Hernando County.
And BeckyJack’s Food Shack.
That’s right, Weeki Wachee’s Little Restaurant That Could has become so powerful that its effect on the local dining scene is bleeding others dry.
In recent days, several major eateries have plucked their last pubic hairs from dishes on the line — Imagez, formerly Felony’s, on U.S. 19 and Forest Oaks, the KFC by the mini golf course on U.S. 19 and the Golden Corral on U.S. 41.
Each was a casualty of the growing throngs of patrons lining up at BeckyJack’s Food Shack — the county’s top-rated restaurant on Yelp — any given night of the week to beg for tables in what is not unlike the fervor surrounding cronuts in less sophisticated cities.
Owner Jaqueline Bequeford chalked it up to a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck.
“I’m a third-generation fish crisper, and my dad’s mee-maw literally invented the idea of putting multiple cheeses on macaroni,” Bequeford said. “I like to think the success has come from pairing these amazing heirloom recipes with only the freshest ingredients, but location also matters. You couldn’t ask for a more visible, bustling spot than our lot on 50 just a mile and a half northwest of U.S. 19.”
Bequeford said she has a secret garden in a clearing in the middle of the Weekiwachee Preserve where she grows her own vegetables and uses mermaids as her fishmongers.
“They’re able to catch things and get them to you so much fresher than most commercial operations,” she said. “You have to invest a lot of time training them, and sometimes you’ll get fish with so many bite marks you can’t do much with them, but it’s worth it.”
The culinary arts world is also taking notice. Food Network host Alton Brown has been exchanging texts with Bequeford asking just how she gets her fish so perfectly crisp, and there’s buzz that a Michelin reviewer was floored during a recent visit and made it as far as Port Richey before turning around and coming back for a second dinner.
Spring Hill real estate food blogger Fred Moutron said in his ranking of local seafood restaurants it is “easily among the best, if not outright running off with the crown. If I had tried this prior to our ‘Best Places to Eat in Spring Hill’ column, it would have certainly been mentioned, despite being a little outside of the radius I set as the cutoff for that article.”
Asked what she thought about the recent closings, Bequeford said she felt sorry that people were out of work but said only the strongest can survive on the limited expendable incomes in a county in which fewer than 12 percent of people can even afford to eat out more than once a month.
“I don’t come to play,” Bequeford said. “If you so much as sell a fish dish in this county, I’m going to make you look like Applebee’s. Don’t embarrass yourself.”