42nd St. Oyster Bar
 Raleigh, North Carolina  Date of Visit  07/23/11  

Having a couple of days in the Raleigh-Durham area I was ecstatic to learn our new friend/family member gets as stoked about dinner as we do. Thanks for the company and fun Ashley. Luckily for us her mom had a local recommendation and we quickly headed to the 42nd St. Oyster Bar and Seafood Grill. Apparently, her mom has enjoyed a number of raw oysters at this locale. My first oyster was actually in culinary school at about 6:30 in the morning. I expected something slimy, fishy, and horrifying.



It All Starts With The Puppies Down Here

What I found was something that tasted just like the ocean and with a bit of mignonette or a splash of horseradishy hot sauce and was simply divine. A perfect food with it’s own plate and sauce. A large building with raw bars and a vast dining room greeted us warmly with a glass of wine and a booth. The whole place is plastered with evidence of its longstanding relationship with its community and nautical memorabilia.

Our server was a little twitchy and made the cardinal error of only addressing me at the table (the only guy) and essentially ignoring or demeaning the two ladies. Hard to get away with that, and he didn’t. The first thing to arrive at the table were the rolls. Since we were in the south there were no rolls, instead piping hot and oniony hushpuppies were delivered with a bit of butter. First time I have had butter added to the fried corn and onion fried biscuit, I am a fan. Fat and fat and fat, how can that be wrong? 


Solid Seafood Bisque But Couldn't Compare To Cuban Revolution

Functional Greens

This is Why You Come

Oysters Stupendous All Around, Especially the House Baked
   We started with a small assortment from the raw bar. We got a couple of oysters each from Black Bay Louisiana, The Watch House Virginia, and York River Virginia. This is half of the magic of 42nd st. All of the oysters were incredibly fresh and perfectly salty good. Each also had their own twist on flavor…one mild, one with a serious saltiness and hints of melon. Worth the trip alone. We also tried the seafood bisque which was rich and thick with a variety of products from the sea. All of our entrees were paired with an average salad and dressing that was fine.

We then tried a combo of the baked oysters. This is the other half of the magic. This night they offered three different options. One standard, Oysters Rockefeller with spinach, bacon and parmesan. Two machinations I have not heard of before. The Oysters 508 which are baked with cayenne, herbs, cheddar and Japanese bread crumbs and 42nd St. Oysters with Breadcrumbs, spicy butter and bacon. The Oysters 508 were okay but the additional flavors overshadowed the seafood making it completely unnecessary to have the oyster at all. The Rockefellers were delicious and classic. The winner of the combo was easily the house version with the spicy butter, bacon and breadcrumbs. The oyster itself shone through and the smoky fatty bacon along with the spice in the butter and the crispiness of the crumbs…beyond super. It was fantastic to find a place that elevated the baked oyster way beyond anything I had previously enjoyed. Truth be known, Steph tried the baked varieties (her first oysters ever) and really enjoyed them. Raw versions are on the horizon thanks to this place.


Nice Broth; Just Killed the Seafood, Tragically Overcooked

Shrimp and Grits...Nice Flavor but Again with the Seafood. Shrimp By Hubba Bubba.

The entrees are where things started to go awry. Our dinner orders included the Italian themed seafood dish of Cioppino, a pan seared Ahi tuna, and the southern classic shrimp and grits. Being in the south I had to try the shrimp and grits. When I saw the gravy featured Tasso ham I knew it was a must. The grits were well done. The gravy screamed southern deliciousness but not good for you…all was just about perfect. The only problem was the money in the dish…the shrimp. Tragically overdone, nearly bubblegum in texture, all of the magic from the raw and baked seafood was lost in way too much heat. The cioppino was even worse as it contained a variety of seafood with each being indistinguishable from the next due to serious over cooking and I suggested it over a couple of other options. If the ingredients were as good as what we had raw or baked…well, it’s just criminal if that is how they were treated. Fortunately the tuna was prepared rare which highlighted the quality of the product…if only the other two dishes had done the same.

If you find yourself near Raleigh, the 42nd St. Oyster Bar is worth a visit. Just be sure to stick to the seafood in the raw or baked sections of the menu as the cooked seafood doesn’t appear to get the same attention or reverence as the earlier options.

At Least the Raw Tuna Still had Some Life in It



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