By Todd Barron @ FoodieCuisine.com
I meet my wife for lunch the other day and can not figure out where to go. We try to go to Bossa Nova but can not find a parking space (even though there were many open tables inside.) We decide to go to The Oyster Bar close to Downtown Little Rock.
The Oyster Bar has been around since 1975 and serves a variety of Cajun style food including shrimp creole, raw oysters, po- boys, and fried fish. You park in the back, walk in over a rickety wooden stair case, through a hallway, and into the open seating area. The place looks old, complete with Ansel Adams prints along the wood panel walls, but has a very “dive” friendly feel to it.
We sit down and wait several minutes for our waitress to show up. I have never really liked the Oyster Bar but think I just orded the wrong things. This time around I opt for a large bowl of the Shrimp Etouffee ($6.95). My wife orders a small bowl of the daily special of Shrimp Creole ($4.75) with extra toast.
Our lunch arrives quickly and my etouffee confuses me at first. The menu said it is creamy, but I did not expect it to be white in color. I am used to etouffee which is red from the tomatoes, but it looks like the Oyster Bar uses a different recipe. Although it is white in color, it looks delicious.
Sure enough, my etouffee tastes wonderful. It has heat via spice, a rare occurrence in restaurants, and plenty of depth of flavor. It is velvety in texture with small notes of onion and pepper. The shrimp is well cooked, and has no fishy taste. The rice at the bottom of the bowl is well cooked and has a nice bite to it. Overall I am extremely pleased with the dish and wonder why I have missed it all these years. The only small complaint I have is I wish my etouffee had more shrimp in it. I am used to etouffees which are full of rice and shrimp, but this one has more sauce than shellfish. Regardless, it tastes great.
My wife’s shrimp creole has depth of flavor, with hints of spice, and the tomatoes add a nice kick to the dish. It is too mild for my tastes, but overall is good. Our check clocks in around $21, feels well worth it, and the entire experience leaves me wanting to return in the future. I really liked my etouffee and now have something to look forward to at The Oyster Bar. Give them a try sometime.