Gulf Coast oysters are often an afterthought. Washington, Maryland, Virginia, British Columbia… the West Coast often populates the oysters of Atlanta’s raw bars like The Optimist and Kimball House. But just down the coast in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas (and even Georgia!), more than 500 million pounds of in-shell oysters are sustainably produced each year, according to Gulf Oyster Industry.
Executive Chef Quentin Donnaud of Coast is a native of New Orleans and Gulf seafood has been a strong part of his upbringing. “Gulf oysters are cheaper and more accessible than Northeastern oysters, especially in the Atlanta area. Though less salty, Gulf oysters are much more plump and meaty than their Yankee counterparts.”
Donnaud believes that the next big thing in Atlanta could be Georgia oysters, because they are briny and have a sparkling intensity. It may be time to take notice of the South’s offering of oysters, especially because Gulf Coast oysters are now the official house purveyor of oysters to the James Beard Foundation. That means whenever guest chefs cook at the Beard House, Gulf Coast oysters will be the exclusive offering.
So where can you find Gulf Coast oysters around town?
Chef Donnaud’s oysters at Coast are buttermilk fried with remoulade sauce and pickled okra, a true Southern style.
Down in Roswell, Hugo’s Oyster Bar features seafood solely from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Mississippi Delta, and right now they are highlighting Louisiana’s varieties. These come from nine major watersheds, with the most popular being Pearl and Lake Pontchartrain.
At ColdBrews Oysters Bar, sister restaurant to Red Pepper Taqueria (who also just opened a raw bar at the Buckhead and Briarcliff locations) you can get $6 for one dozen oysters from 4 to 6 p.m. Both restaurants have Gulf Coast oysters from Louisiana and East of Mississippi, and they serve them up crispy, broiled or raw on the half-shell.
Goin’ Coastal in both Canton and Virginia-Highlands is known for supporting the sustainable seafood movement, and their Gulf oysters are no exception.
A different take on oysters is the “nacho mama’s oysters” at Max’s Wine Dive. They chuck the shell and serve these fried Gulf oysters on wonton chips with habanero salsa, garlic aioli and cilantro.