Akira Clay & Terre Gorham 0000-00-00 00:00:00
PEARL’S OYSTER HOUSE When Joe’s Crab Shack closed Downtown in October 2006, many people thought all was lost for the casualatmosphere seafood lover in the area. But crustacean enthusiasts had no reason to worry. Within months, Pearl’s Oyster House opened just down the street. With less corporate influence and more of owner Ray Porter’s down-home, seafood-joint essence, patrons of all types could slurp on an oyster and feel right at home. Located in the South Main district, the white and crab-colored exterior with bright neon sign promises a laid-back yet enjoyable trip to the Gulf. Along the east side of the 8,000-square-foot, two-floored space, trolleys clang by. Inside, worn brick interior walls splashed with vibrant local artwork lend a coastal flair. So do exposed timbers, high ceilings with fans, overstuffed couches in a lounge area, and decorative “seaweed” irons. A monster bar made from 100-yearold timbers that were originally downstairs nearly spans the length of the restaurant. Porter, a real estate developer, points out an added allure sizzling at the bar for his customers these days. “Behind the bar, we not only shuck raw oysters but we cook our char-grilled oysters so people can watch. That’s our most popular oyster besides the raw. Oysters are grilled openface, brushed with chipotle butter, and topped with melted Parmesan cheese.” With eight types of oysters on the menu ranging from the raw Louisiana Gulf Oysters to the spicy Pearl’s Hot Shucks to the luxurious Oysters Rockefeller, there’s an oyster for every half shell. But there’s much more than oysters at this Cheers-type bar that doubles as a family-friendly restaurant. Gumbos, chowders, etouffees, salads, and pastas join a Captain’s Choice list of entrees, seafood platters, and beef and chicken dinners. Po-boys of all types, fish sandwiches, the Pearl’s Burger — all are cooked to order. The Kids Menu is designed for less sophisticated tastebuds, while the dessert menu — think key lime pie, fudge brownie, and bananas Foster — is one-size-fits-all. General Manager David Glover has served in the restaurant business for more than 20 years. He reflects on the early days of Pearl’s when he and Porter faced the daunting task of totally gutting the former tattoo parlor, reeling it into a restaurant, and mixing a Gulf Coast atmosphere with the rhythm and blues of their Memphis hometown. “It was just a tremendous undertaking with the amount of work that had to be done,” says Glover. “Within four months, we had to completely dismantle the remnants of the building’s shell and rebuild everything including all of the concrete work. When Ray bought the building, the downstairs had a dirt floor!” The downstairs today is home to an expansive and comfortably furnished game/party/ meeting area that accommodates 100-plus, complete with another massive bar, its own set of bathrooms, pool tables and dartboard, and catering from above. The award-winning restaurant’s design was the brainchild of Porter and the original chef, Miles McMath. “I did most of it myself,” Porter acknowledges. “I can design better than I can cook! It’s a fun and relaxing atmosphere with convenient parking. It’s the type of place that attracts regulars. This isn’t corporate America, so our specialty is oysters and a good time.” “If we don’t know your name, we want to know it,” adds Glover. “We try to recognize our customers and make them feel appreciated, because they are. They’re the ones who help make us successful.” When it comes to the affordable, diverse menu, Porter relies heavily on Glover’s expertise. “The menu has evolved so much,” says Porter. “David is so familiar with what’s popular with our guests and the shelf life of different menu items. We can tweak the selections to match the public’s tastes.” “Right now, our specialties are the chargrilled oysters and hot crawfish dip,” says Glover. “And we serve the best bread pudding, homemade right here in the kitchen.” Music streaming from the XM satellite radio, free parking out back by the patio, and local artwork that changes whenever the artist gets the urge all keep Pearl’s as fresh as the shellfish it put on its plates. Pearl’s Oyster House, 299 S. Main, 522- 9070, pearlsoysterhouse.com.
Published by Downtowner Magazine. View All Articles.
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