37390 Perkins Rd. Ste. ABC
9828 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Baton Rouge, LA
Author Jonathan Swift is quoted as having said, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”. That may be true, but here in south Louisiana, bold men and women eat them up in large quantities. Whether you like them freshly shucked, roasted, fried, or baked in a dish, On The Half Shell has you covered.
This restaurant started out in Prairieville, and now has a location on Bluebonnet near Burbank amidst the rapid growth of that area. This new location offers a more spacious environment than the original, which started out as one parcel of a strip mall and has now, expanded to three. Live music is featured every Thursday through Saturday night, which adds to the atmosphere and helps to promote the local entertainment scene. Usually there’s someone doing an acoustic set, which means you can enjoy your meal without being blasted with sound (unlike some other places).
On my visit, as with nearly every visit, I have to start out with their specialty, Gold Band brand oysters. These are the oysters served, and they are always excellent. Gold Band uses a revolutionary process called HPP to pasteurize their oysters, utilizing high pressure instead of other methods. This results in all bacteria being eliminated to non-detectable levels while causing absolutely no change to taste or texture. This process has led them to win the American Culinary Institute’s award for best tasting raw oysters three years in a row. And to top it off, these guys are from just down the bayou in Houma.
While I will almost never pass up a freshly shucked raw oyster, on this visit I needed to maximize my review potential, so I opted for the Guidry’s dozen, a mixture of the four types of grilled oysters served with garlic French bread. This first type in the sampler is the Rockefeller, perhaps the most well known, a topping of creamy cheese and spinach, topped with breadcrumbs, very tasty. As good as I have had the dish anywhere. Next was the Bienville, my personal favorite; cheese, shrimp and mushrooms, placed atop the oyster and finished with bread crumbs, also very delicious.
The other two varieties are quite interesting. The Piccante di Fromaggio topping is made of asiago cheese, parmesan cheese, bacon bits, and jalapeno peppers. The Casso (the namesake of the restaurant’s owner) features oysters that are brushed with olive oil, then topped with balsamic vinegar, cane syrup, sun-dried tomatoes, and a touch of oregano. While both of these offerings are tasty, I felt the flavors overwhelmed the natural oyster flavor. Aside from texture, there really could have been anything underneath the toppings.
Since this is no appetizer sized array for just one person, I chose one of the smaller dishes for the entrée. Shrimp Jefferson is a specialty developed by the kitchen, and it’s a good one. It starts with eggplant that is peeled and diced up, mixed with crab and shrimp and cooked down thoroughly into a casserole. It is then spooned out into a small baking dish, topped with large fresh shrimp and jumbo lump crabmeat and baked in the oven. This dish is quite good, and I enjoyed it, despite not being a huge fan of eggplant. My only slight problem with it was that it was not served with bread. It seemed to me that a dish with such a stewed type consistency needed a good piece of crusty bread. Of course when I asked my server about it, it was promptly presented to me.
The dish is served with a side, and I got the baked sweet potato. The potato is served with butter and cinnamon sugar, and unlike some places, it is not smothered in these toppings, but rather modestly added to preserve the natural flavor.
The Half Shell is a nice place for a seafood dinner. They offer all the standard fare you would expect at any seafood eatery in town, along with special items like the ones just discussed. The atmosphere is nice, and the service is typically quite good. My only true negative about it would be their policy to not accept Visa or Mastercard. This is due to some issues they faced in the past with fraudulent cards and other problems. I can appreciate the fact that a restaurant can’t stand to lose sales over such things, and that they are in the business of food service and not banking, and shouldn’t be burdened with problems. However, in today’s mostly cashless society, this is a huge inconvenience to a lot of customers, and does drive some folks away. That being said, if you love good Louisiana seafood, especially oysters, give them a try.