Table Salt By Bill Coyne
What makes for a true “oyster bar”? We can walk into quite a few places around here and be served oysters — raw on the half shell, chargrilled or what we call flash fried, which essentially is quickly frying them until the exterior breading is crisp and the oyster gets hot without becoming dry.
However, when you can create your own variety of oyster options nine different ways, you’re in an oyster bar. If oysters aren’t your thing, there are plenty of offerings on the menu which you’ll enjoy as well. Gourmet burgers, steaks, salads, and barbecue chicken.
Anyone who’s been in Lake Charles forever will know the building at 1016 E. Prien Lake Rd.
It once housed Shillileagh’s and later Dairy Barn, but had been sitting vacant and in decay for years. In this building, a daughter and father team created The Captains Table of Lake Charles.
Revamped and updated, the building has its own character, with quirky and vibrant colors, corrugated metal walls, charred wood and bits of maritime decor. But it still has a way to go. The stairs to the right lead to an upper deck and a second bar still in the works, which will all come together shortly.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of running into a new place while they’re getting their feet wet and in soft opening mode. That’s when they’re trying to find what works and what doesn’t, or what might need a little tweaking before the surge and full-blown grand opening.
However, there has been an overwhelming amount of positive buzz surrounding this place, and I had to check it out. I have to admit, when I heard we were going to be seeing a new oyster bar in Lake Charles, I eagerly started following the progress of the build.
The daughter, Samantha, bought the business, and her father, David, hammered out the physical aspects. Together with the kitchen team, they began creating their oyster recipes.
So I walk in and there’s a guy behind a small sheet of glass happily shuckin’. There are a few seats available at the bar, and that’s where I want to be.
Julie voices out my options as I ask her about the beer choices, which are the staples you’d expect to find. I sip my beer as I get a feel for what’s being presented to the other guests around the bar. Some oysters are fresh on the half, some just come out of the kitchen with a simple “here, try this.”
The first pass around for me is an oyster Bienville — a baked oyster with a mushroom-and-cheese topping. It’s a bit subtle in flavor, which leaves me looking for something with a lot more ka-pow without taking away from the flavor of the oyster. I decide on the 100-mile oysters, with garlic, Parmesan and secret spices, and a fried seafood basket. Due to a bed issue, the oysters are of decent size, but not overly plump or massive. But the kitchen staff makes up for the small oysters by adding one as needed. The oysters come out bubbling in their own liquor with a fantastic aroma, nicely seasoned with great flavor and toasted slices of French bread for mopping up what’s left in the shell.
The fried seafood basket has fish, oysters, shrimp, fresh-cut fries and a side — I chose mac and cheese. It’s so pleasant to see that the proteins are all lightly breaded so nothing distracts from their real flavors. The fish and oysters are steamy, the shrimp have a great little crisp, and the creamy mac was some of the best I’ve had in quite a while.
By the time this makes print, it won’t be much of a secret. Even though it’s only November, they are serving boiled crawfish. Crawfish? Yes, in limited batches. I suggest you follow them on Facebook to keep up with the latest news as they grow. That’s good eating, right there. Good people, too.