The Oyster Bar, established in 1975, has been around for long enough that’s it’s hard to imagine a Little Rock without it. The restaurant is a reliable standby that’s part of the very fabric of town, but as such, it’s rather easy to forget about. Don’t make that mistake.
The interior of the Oyster Bar is always larger than I remember, probably because I’ve so often gone five or seven years between visits. The wood paneling initially seems dated, but after ordering a beer and sitting for a minute, I start to feel like I’m somewhere else entirely, maybe some old shack on the coast where I can imagine the oysters have just been collected. Of course, I didn’t actually order oysters...
However, we did order quite a spread, beginning with a small bowl of shrimp gumbo for my spouse. Spicy, but not hot, the rich flavors were the perfect way to begin a fall lunch. The French bread I swiped off his plate was hot, buttered, crispy, and made up in small rounds that were almost bite-sized, and therefore obviously tastier than standard.
The shrimp etouffe I chose for my main was creamier than is typical of etouffe, but so, so rich and flavorful. The fluffy rice made a nice bed for the etouffe. The shrimp, so often overcooked, had that distinctive bite that only perfectly cooked shrimp can achieve. And, I’ve got a real thing for okra, from raw to fried to boiled. This version of it was exceptional, with a real focus on the okra and not on the “fried.”
Though the traditional Cajun options were real winners, the grilled mahi-mahi ordered by my spouse wasn’t quite as satisfying. Though the spices were appropriate and not overly applied, the fish leaned toward tough. The fries were good and crispy, and the cucumber salad just a bit sweet—though my husband would have traded it for my okra, I would happily be torn between the two.
A minor thing to note, but I also enjoyed the dressing bar in the back. Rather than asking the server to bring whatever sauce you’d like, you can just go get it.
I like the vibe in Oyster Bar. After a few years living on the coast, I really did find the aesthetic similar. It wasn’t crowded at noon on a Saturday, and the wait staff was as laid back as the surroundings. So, if you want Cajun food, the Oyster Bar in Little Rock is the place to go—just go the route of the Oyster Bar House Specialties.