Oyster time is here. What I mean by that is it is always here. I eat them all year round, but it seems I crave them more during the “R” months. I am certainly not one those pansies who takes a break from the half shell from May until August. No sir, I am not. But I am a man who craves them more during the cooler months, any way you serve them opting for shrimp when it gets hotter.
The big question is why are they so outrageously expensive these days? It wasn’t long ago sub-$8 for a dozen was the norm and you used to get a baker’s dozen. Good luck on both counts today. Now an Andrew Jackson isn’t enough for a dozen raw in some places. If it is, expect to drink water. On a recent trip to Hattiesburg, I found myself paying upwards of $13 per dozen, and the jokers were about the size of a dime. I’ve actually never seen oysters this small. The largest one from my three dozen (yes, 36 oysters) was the size of a quarter.
I love the small oysters. The flavor is unmatched. But I don’t want to go broke on a simple shuck. So riddle me this. Is the price so high because of a shortage? Is it a bad oyster harvest this year? Do I need to file a culinary BP claim? Are we done with that yet? Is there indeed an oyster mafia like the one I am starting to believe in? Will Bruce Wayne discover Catwoman’s true identity or is this the purrfect crime? Tune in next issue for the answers to these questions, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
I felt it was my duty to begin an investigation into this dilemma, and what better way to start than to take my trusty sidekick Mr. Bubble along to the Original Oyster House.
The Causeway has been good to this old gal. If you’ve lived here for any length of time and have not visited this treasure, then I wouldn’t trust you as far as I could judo toss you. It seats a million people and is always packed. Argue with that. So why would I review something so familiar? This is about oysters. And they have new fire-grilled on the half shell.
Any excuse to go for oysters is OK by me. This is as good an excuse as you can get. Obviously, they are taking this new menu item seriously. As Boy Wonder-Bubble and I bellied up to the bar, we noticed a television monitor that shows the actual grill. Yes, you can watch your oysters cooking if you are into that sort of thing. Maybe that should be the new trend in other kitchens. Closed circuit monitoring of cooking could be the new thing. Or we could even broadcast it over the Internet!
It’s such a big deal I immediately ordered a dozen raw ($11.95) and a dozen fire grilled ($17.95). Minutes later the raw came bouncing to the bar. The bivalves were a little larger than the ones I’d had days before, I’d say between the size of a quarter and a fifty-cent piece. I’m OK with that. I’d still love to see that price drop, though they were delicious. I feel so sorry for Yankees who can’t have this every day.
The fire grilled came out with a bit more pomp and circumstance. First off, the oysters were larger. Straight from the giant 7-foot grill, this scoop of garlic buttery goodness is topped with a mix of Parmesan and Romano that will get you to the church on time. Ka-boom! It’s like a bomb going off in your mouth. Served with a slice of grilled French bread, these oysters are priced properly.
Boy Wonder-Bubble is looking to squeeze into the green tights by early May, so he’s dieting a bit. He’s scared of the carbohydrates, so he orders the steamed shrimp dinner ($19), turnips and salad bar. It is worth mentioning the salad bar is of high quality. They even have peas. It’s well worth the $2.50 up-charge to replace one of your sides.
The turnips weren’t lacking and the giant shrimp were nicely done. Just the right amount of seasoning and I didn’t have to struggle with the shells on the two he allowed me to sample. I despise overcooked un-peel-able shrimp.
I went full glutton with the Joe Cain Platter ($24.45) and a cup of gumbo ($4.75). First, you have blackened grouper with a garlic cream sauce topped with popcorn shrimp. The grouper was fantastic, but the garlic cream sauce was so-so. Popcorn shrimp are what you’d expect. This also has a generous handful of fried crab claws.
That’s already enough. Now the kicker is the good portion of grilled shrimp along the northeast side of the plate. I came nowhere near finishing this monster and gave a couple of crab claws to some guy from Houston who’d never seen one before. Bubble included the rest in his diet.
There was a cup of yellow sauce, but with the garlic cream sauce I wasn’t sure of its use. Holy Hollandaise, it was great on the un-sauced pieces of fish.
I have one complaint. I never got my gumbo. It seems in the ruckus of all the other food I forgot it myself. It was on the way home when I looked at the ticket I realized the mistake. You owe me gumbo, Oyster House. I will not forget. Send me a coupon or something.
If you have never visited the Original Oyster House or you have not been since February, come out of your cave and try the fire grilled. What’s next for me and Boy Wonder-Bubble? We will get to the bottom of this oyster schism even if we have to sample every restaurant in the Southeast. Mark my words.
Original Oyster House
3733 Battleship Pkwy.
Spanish Fort, Ala.
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