The Half Shell Oyster House is a Gulfport, Mississippi-based restaurant that several years ago opened a location in Mobile and then another in Spanish Fort. I’ve been to both restaurants many times and have never been disappointed. Recently, I found myself between meetings in Mobile with some time on my hands and a hungry belly, so I stopped by Half Shell for lunch.
Before I arrived, I had my mind set on some grilled oysters. I sat in the bar, which was quite busy for a Wednesday, and looked over the menu deciding which combination I wanted to order. There is always a skilled Oyster Griller at Half Shell Oyster House, with several flavors of grilled oysters from which to choose. Shucked on the spot, you can also get them raw.
That day's oysters were from St. Barnard Parish, they were medium-sized and had just the right amount of saltiness. I went with the “Orleans” with melted butter, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Simple and delicious. I ordered blackened Redfish and a Half Shell Salad with the house vinaigrette.
Before my oysters arrived, the manager, Matt Larrow, brought me two cups of soup, a seafood gumbo, and the other a crawfish, corn, and crab bisque. “We’ve tweaked our recipes,” he said, “and would like to know what you think.” The gumbo was very good, made with a dark roux and loaded with plenty of crawfish, shrimp, and crabmeat. “Tangy with a sweet finish,” I told Matt. The bisque, which is always one of my favorites, was served with chopped green onions, “thick and sweet with a nice texture.”
My oysters arrived and were perfect. My half-dozen included one extra for good measure. Then they were gone! My salad was especially fresh and tasty. All Half Shell Oyster House dressings are made in-house. The redfish filet arrived with a side of lemon aioli sauce that was the perfect complement. That day’s fish offerings included many choices of locally caught fish.
I asked Matt if he had a second to visit. He told me he grew up in Michigan but married a Pascagoula girl, which is how he ended up on the Gulf Coast. We swapped a few fishing stories. He told me about ice fishing with his dad and uncle as a boy, when the fish were biting everything they presented. Even a bare hook, after they ran out of bait, bread, and hotdogs. We discussed things like the new limits of game fish and where you can get Redfish to serve in restaurants since game fish are not legal to sell in Alabama. “They are farm-raised,” he said.
He tried to convince me to try the house-made bread pudding, again a favorite of mine, but I wisely resisted. He pointed out that Half Shell Oyster House was launched in Gulfport three years after Hurricane Katrina. Much of the decor in all their restaurants are salvaged from debris washed up on the beach after Katrina.
Half Shell Oyster House was founded by Bob Taylor and is owned by Bob and three partners. The restaurant has expanded in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to include 17 locations and one sister restaurant, The Rack House in Gulfport.
I really like the way Half Shell Oyster House presents its lunch offerings. Just the right portions, reasonably priced, and always fresh. I especially appreciate that they offer different combinations of seafood dishes paired with just the thing that suits your taste bud fancy that day.
They have to know what they are doing since their customers know their Gulf seafood, right?