At times a man needs to clear his head. The daily grind can get to you after a while. I’ve been hitting it pretty hard lately and am in desperate need of some type of mental vacation. One of the best ways to get me back right where I need to be is with a boatload of raw oysters and some consultation with the Reverend Vertigo.
We’ve been discussing an evening out for a while now, but our schedules have not been able to connect. That is, until tonight. I was planning on taking the Rev out for some soul searching and soul food, but the Rev doesn’t discriminate. He wasn’t the least bit offended when I suggested we try the relatively new Half Shell.
Half Shell is from a Mississippi family of restaurants that began in Gulfport. Soon there was another in Biloxi followed by a Hattiesburg location. Sarasota, Fla. was the fourth to be so lucky and Mobile rang in as the fifth location last June. Since then they have also opened a visually stunning location on the gaming floor of the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi.
I’ve been to half of the six locations and I should report the Mobile facility is no slouch. If you sit at the bar try to make your way to the far right as the left hand side is where they grill the oysters. It can get a little heated. When the Rev and I arrived at Half Shell the pew at the hostess area was half full. The bar would be a fine place to bend an ear and take our supper.
We know what’s coming first. I needed a platter of oysters on the half shell ($15). I’m not certain if they just liked our spirit or if they treat everyone this way, but our baker’s dozen was a whopping 16 medium sized. They were good. The Rev took his with crackers as I had mine with straight Crystal hot sauce.
A Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio ($9.50) helped wash down the first couple, but I soon switched to Heineken ($4.50) while the Rev opted for Good People Pale Ale ($4.50). Let’s face it, raw deserves beer, and I could already feel the stress dissipating, the fog lifting and the light was shining brighter.
The Rev and I are both fine examples of what one might call health nuts, and he wanted to be sure to sample the Half Shell salad ($6 small, $9 large or $2 to substitute for a side item). This could be one of the best salads in town. How can you go wrong with avocado and goat cheese? Toasted almonds were a nice touch to the bed of spring mix, tomatoes, carrots and chives. Roasted garlic balsamic dressing is the perfect binder for all of these flavors.
I was no less impressed with the gumbo ($5 per cup, $9 per bowl). This is a darker roux with plenty of shrimp, crab and crawfish. It was not too heavy on the rice, the way I prefer. To me gumbo should still fall in the “soup” category.
Our conversation danced from life to music to food and back again and spirits were high. Then the good Reverend threw me a curveball. He ordered seafood stuffed portabella mushrooms ($19) for his entrée. I admit I didn’t see that one coming. Truth be told, I’d tasted them in Hattiesburg before, and they are fantastic. Shrimp, lump crabmeat, minced chipotles, roasted red peppers and spinach is what the menu reads. It comes together like a circus of flavor. For the under-$20 price tag you get your money’s worth. If I remember correctly there were three of these monsters. Add to that a side of cheddar cheese grits and you’re one step closer to glory.
I was feeling a little more decadent and ordered grouper and lobster Oscar ($24). This is a dish I’d not tried on previous visits, but one Rob Holbert recommended. When they say “bronzed grouper” they mean it. The fish was golden in the dimly lit bar, and delicious asparagus topped the plate. A drizzle of Hollandaise, not too eggy, not too buttery, but smooth and creamy was worth seeking for every bite. Surrounding the fish was perfectly cooked chopped lobster tail.
As a side I tried the dessert-replacing sweet potato Crème Brulee. I’m not exactly sure how it qualifies as Crème Brulee, but it qualifies as good. This was more than my sweet tooth could handle, so I threw in the towel.
Other visits I’ve tried charbroiled oysters, voodoo shrimp, fried green tomatoes and crab cakes, bisque, fried okra and an oyster sampler that included Rockefeller, Bienville, and Orleans. Not once have I been less than impressed. I’ve heard one complaint about the bread, but I don’t waste space in a place like this on such things.
When you think about it in one sitting I consumed oysters, shrimp, crawfish, grouper and lobster. That is not a bad way to spend an evening clearing your head. We got a lot done that evening. We walked out a little fuller, a little taller and a little less serious about the days ahead. This is one place to go to lose the blues. I shall return.
Half Shell Oyster House
3654 Airport Blvd. Suite F
Mobile, AL 36607
Editor’s note: Last week’s article “Nehi to a grasshopper — remembrance of soda pops gone by” was written by Andy MacDonald. The wrong byline was inadvertently run, attributing it to the wrong writer.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).