Writer and Shoofly Magazine editor Lisa Monti reminisces about her first oyster tasting, the beginning of a lifelong fandom for the delectable bi-valves.
- story by Lisa Monti
Detractors have trouble with the texture of oysters, or the notion of eating something raw. That must be even more off-putting to landlocked visitors than staring down at a fried soft-shell crab, with its crunchy legs shooting out from both sides of po-boy.
Fans of the oyster have no such worries when it comes to plump ones eaten raw or prepared in a well-turned dish. Without getting too Forrest Gump-ish, the versatile oyster can be grilled, charbroiled, scalloped, wrapped in bacon, baked, smoked, stewed, roasted, steamed and cooked into a dressing.
Oyster cravings get stirred up this time of year by cooler weather and memories of holiday feasts. A line formed in our kitchen when the Christmas oyster patties came out of the oven. Making them was a production, led by my grandmother, that involved a gallon of oysters and green onions run through a hand-cranked grinder intended for meat.
All the ingredients came together to bubble in a big Magnalite pot before being spooned into small flaky shells from the McKenzie’s Bakery on Chef Highway. A piece of art depicting an oyster patty hangs in my kitchen as a reminder of that holiday treat.
Of course oysters are available any time of year, and fortunately, you can find them on loads of local menus if not in your own kitchen. (Note to self: it’s frying time again.)
A fried oyster po-boy is always a good option, although sometimes choosing between shrimp and oysters can make for some serious internal conflict. The humble, almost sweet, always reliable shrimp? Or the oysters, delicate to the mouth, on the rich side (oysters Rockefeller, hello!) with a dash of extravagance. There’s a reason, don’t you suppose, that there are oyster bars and not shrimp or crab bars.
The last oysters that I ate were at C&C Farm to Fork restaurant on Main Street, listed on the menu simply as Gulf Fried Oysters, in a self-explanatory way. They were fried to a perfect crisp and served with delicious sauces, though the oysters were good enough to stand on their own.
There’s even a new festival celebrating the briny treats – the St. Clare’s Oyster Fest on October 13th (see details on our Upcoming Events page). If it’s anything like the church’s annual Seafood Festival, it’s bound to grow into a local tradition.
As a child on the beach trying my first raw oyster, maybe I didn’t appreciate how special that treat was at the time. But I’m mightily grateful now for all of the fresh seafood in the Gulf. Catch it, cook it, order it and celebrate it. Aren’t we the lucky ones?
Below are a few of our Old Town restaurants known for their oysters.
200 North Beach
200 N Beach Blvd
Bay St Louis
Open 7 Days
116 N Beach Blvd
Bay St Louis
C&C Farm to Fork
Creative and sustainable Southern cuisine
111 Main Street
Bay St. Louis, MS
Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar & Grill
108 S Beach Blvd
Bay St Louis
(228) 467- 3707
Open 7 Days
The RAW Bar
118 N. Beach Blvd.
Bay St. Louis
Silver Slipper Casino’s Oyster Bar
Fresh seafood appetizers and entrees
5000 S Beach Blvd
Bay St. Louis , MS 39520
Open 7 days
St. Clare Church Oyster Festival
St. Clare Catholic Church
236 S. Beach Blvd
10:00am to 10:00pm
Drawdown tickets are on sale now at the church—$50 per ticket.
Seafood, bands, vendors, a $5,000 drawdown raffle, and more seafood! Welcome the Fall season with tasty oyster dishes and "sides" like gumbo, potato salad, fried shrimp plates and poboys, crab stuffed potatoes, cotton candy, and more! Live local entertainment including the David Mayley Band (1pm-3pm) and Monsters at Large with the Moran Brothers (6pm-9pm). What a win/win--oysters and a drawdown!