DrPepper

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, 14th and Q Streets - Black Pearls Gawn Wild

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Jeff Black here. My new Restaurant is now open. Downstairs is a Gulf Coast inspired Oyster Bar (Pearl Dive), upstairs we have bocce ball and a bar named Black Jack. Let me know what you think. JB

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Last night myself and 3 others (of varying ages and stages) ate a very nice meal at Pearl Dive. After hearing about the "ticketing" system for waiting for a table (basically, the same as you'd see at a deli or DMV), I was skeptical. But it's actually a good concept because they have the "now serving" signs all over both Pearl Dive (downstairs) and Black Jack (upstairs), which allows you to wander a bit without loitering by the host stand. At 7:30 pm, we were quoted a 20-40 minute wait. We opted to check out the upstairs bar while grabbing a drink, and try our hand at bocce. The bar service upstairs was confused and very slow (as you can imagine on an opening night) but pleasant. After about 20 minutes, the "now serving" number jumped from 86, where it had been the whole time, to 92, seemingly skipping everyone in between. We ran downstairs to make sure that we hadn't been skipped, and thankfully we hadn't, and we were eated immediately (was it a glitch?). I am guessing that depending on your party size, you will be served before or after those who may have gotten there before you. They should explain this, however, so people don't freak out at the thought of missing their table after a lengthy wait.

Once we sat down, the host took our drink orders graciously before the waiter arrived, which was nice. My party ordered appetizers that everyone seemed to enjoy- bacon wrapped oysters, half-dozen raw oysters, and mushroom soup. The server also arrived with a generous basket of jalapeno (?) corn muffins and rolls (which were delicious). For entrees, we ordered the classic Black's mussels (great as always); Rockfish over mussels, tomatoes, and chorizo; crawfish etouffee; and wood-grilled redfish over grits. Everyone really enjoyed the entrees. This is a great neighborhood joint that tries hard and largely delivers on the promise of being a good, moderately priced seafood joint. Next I'd like to try some of the items on the bar menu upstairs, which has some tasty-sounding sandwiches and other unique dishes that you don't see anywhere else.

I will say that the staff was really on edge and nervous- understandly so, it being opening night. Hopefully they'll all find their groove as they become familiar with the menus and drink lists.

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What kind of prices do they charge at this place? Specifically for raw oysters?

I was at Pearl Dive last night, and they were charging $2.00 or $2.50 (premiums). It's a very cool place, and I highly recommend the grilled oysters (which were $9 for 3 and worth the upcharge - none of the "raw oyster flavor" was lost in the grilling).

Note also: Black Jack is a completely separate entity, and the only menu item that transfers between the two will be the raw oysters, i.e., it will get its own thread.

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The boy and I stopped by the restaurant last Saturday while wandering around for a place to supper and when we saw that they were serving people we bounded across the street to get a table. I thought the C.E.B.L.T ($13? 16?) and crawfish etouffe ($22) were outstanding, and we give equal props to the jalapeno cornbread and biscuits served before the meal. The C.E.B.L.T is surprisingly light for something stuffed with fried catfish, fried egg, and bacon, and the etouffe was smokey, belly-warming and studded with generous chunks of crawfish. I was pleased with the portion sizes and the service, and I'm feeling properly contrite for not paying closer attention to the oyster bar and alcohol offerings because I imagine those items were selected with as much thought as was given to the food. Unless the quality and service goes vastly downhill, it will be a 2 hour wait kinda place within weeks (days? right now?).

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Nice to see that Danny Wells is back in DC in the Black Restaurant Group fold. He was at BlackSalt when it opened, was Executive chef when Joey moved to management and then Danny went to New York for a while. He's a good guy and a top-notch chef.

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Pearl Dive is open for lunch during the week only on Fridays. I'm not sure if folks don't know that or if lunch traffic just isn't that big in the neighborhood, but it wasn't more than half full during our 90ish minutes there.

The service was terrific. We had one main waitress, but everyone kind of pitched in whenever they spotted a need. She happily offered my mom a fried oyster plate, despite the fact that it's not on the lunch menu, since mom had a crazy craving for fried oysters on their own, not in a po boy. (She deemed the oysters a mix of good to great, with some having more yummy "burst" than others.) The CEBLT is SO good, but with one flaw: it's too damn big. Two filets of (beautifully fried) catfish are layered on the reasonably short bun, which not only makes it nearly impossible to eat (especially after the egg breaks and all that slippery yolky goodness oozes out), but too much fish and breading throw off the balance and makes it overly salty. I took one of the filets off and voila, problem solved. The fries are great, and the Guinness is spot-on.

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Went last Saturday and ended up with the chefs table in the kitchen, definitely quieter and more entertaining. Go here now and immediately order the fried chicken, hand down the best in the DMV. Also sampled the fresh oysters, étouffée, rockfish and shrimp and grits. They are turning out some great stuff here right now.

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We went two Saturday ago. LOVED the oysters; they are flat-out the best I've had in the city. (I mean, I like baked and Rockefeller too, but that would seem like a misappropriation of such a fresh bivalve.)

The seafood gumbo has quite a kick to it, and a lot of okra (which I love), ditto the crawfish etouffee. I am no N'awlins specialist, but they both felt filling without being heavy, and the essence of the sea was right there. Even in a roux, seafood dishes should taste like seafood, right?

Took an hour to get a table, but a) that's the deal at 7:30 on Saturday, and B) you got to love cocktails in big brass mugs. Multiple ones, even.

Nice work, Chef. Thanks for the meal.

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Pearl Dive is open for lunch during the week only on Fridays. I'm not sure if folks don't know that or if lunch traffic just isn't that big in the neighborhood, but it wasn't more than half full during our 90ish minutes there.

...

The CEBLT is SO good, but with one flaw: it's too damn big. ...

I was surprised to find that lunch today wasn't crowded - even with the newly online Post review.

The CEBLT (fried catfish, egg, really good bacon, l & t) poorboy really is delicious, among the best things I have eaten in a very long time. Every component is cooked perfectly, and they go well together. But I must be a pig, because my thought upon seeing it (and even after finishing it) was "This awesome sandwich would be even more awesome if it were actually the size of a proper poorboy." Compared to what I have found at various places on the Gulf coast, this is about half the size (and about the same price or more). BUT this is not a complaint, more of a wistful thinking, "What if you could get a sandwich this good, but twice as big, and it was warm and sunny outside and you could hear the ocean?" Then I remind myself it is better to be in DC than at the Florabama for many reasons, even if the sandwiches are smaller and it is cold and gray outside.

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Three of us had 4 dfferent Washington State oysters Wed night and a split a one pound bowl of mussels. Superb.I have had oysters here 4 or 5 times. I recently compared to my old fave, Hank's. These are definitely better.

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Not a ton to add to the above so will keep this one shorter. As a poster who often runs long, I can hear the applause as I type :D

At lunch yesterday, a friend and I had the CEBLT and agree it's a pretty damn outstanding sandwich in every respect with the catfish, artisan bacon and egg in the starring roles. Likewise the crawfish etoufee though it was more than my friend could finish. Fries that put another stake in the coffin of the belief that it's too difficult or cost prohibitive for restaurants to hand-cut fries. Pearl Dive does. And they're great; shoestring, golden crispy w/ good salt, excellent.

A starter of malpeques, kumamotos and naked roy's were as fresh, delicious and perfectly chilled as any fresh oysters I've had in the region. The dipping sauces, like much in the Black empire, include just a bit more surprise executed just a bit better than so many others: traditional cocktail, mignonette and a less-typical but tasty green, herbaceous vinegar-based sauce called "dive juice." It will be tough for me to go here without getting oysters every time. And, how to justify trying any grilled or fried when the raw are this good? Feels a bit blasphemous like cooking a perfect heirloom tomato at the height of tomato season in Aug or Sept. Good dilemmas.

My only concern with Pearl Dive is being able to access it as its popularity, already high, grows. With TS's 2.5 star review now out and the word spreading quickly, it's going to be tough to score dinner tables here. Would love to see them extend lunch service to five-days-a-week from just Fridays as it is now.

And, very cool that Pearl Dive's manager is Kelly, formerly one of our favorite servers at Palena who made it here by way of Addies.

I really think the Blacks have to be the best of the many local 3-7 location operators. All of their places seem to maintain unique positions, wonderful food and consistently genuine, friendly and effective service over sustained periods of time. I've never met them but have to think they're a super example of the idea of management really mattering. It's not enough to be a great chef or have innovative food ideas. You have to be able to hire, inspire, retain, motivate and manage the business (with all that implies) along with great food to survive and thrive. Easier said than done as so many restaurant failures make clear. The Blacks have cracked an incredibly tough code. Really admirable and DC's food scene is so much better for it IMHO.

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Compared to what I have found at various places on the Gulf coast, this is about half the size (and about the same price or more). BUT this is not a complaint, more of a wistful thinking, "What if you could get a sandwich this good, but twice as big, and it was warm and sunny outside and you could hear the ocean?" Then I remind myself it is better to be in DC than at the Florabama for many reasons, even if the sandwiches are smaller and it is cold and gray outside.

i heard the Florabama burned down, anyway ...

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But I must be a pig, because my thought upon seeing it (and even after finishing it) was "This awesome sandwich would be even more awesome if it were actually the size of a proper poorboy." Compared to what I have found at various places on the Gulf coast, this is about half the size (and about the same price or more). BUT this is not a complaint, more of a wistful thinking, "What if you could get a sandwich this good, but twice as big, and it was warm and sunny outside and you could hear the ocean?" Then I remind myself it is better to be in DC than at the Florabama for many reasons, even if the sandwiches are smaller and it is cold and gray outside.

You're right. I didn't explain that clearly. I was surprised that it was only a half sandwich, but it was too tall, vertically--impossible to take a bite without serious smooshing, then the yolk and sauce kill its structural integrity, making it really difficult to eat. If they were to put the second catfish fillet on another half bun, it'd be a damn near perfect sandwich. You're not a pig. :D

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Jeff Black here. My new Restaurant is now open. Downstairs is a Gulf Coast inspired Oyster Bar ( Pearl Dive), upstairs we have bocce ball and a bar named Black Jack. Let me know what you think. JB

(Sounds like you're doing something right) :)

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(Sounds like you're doing something right) :)

Rocks isn't kidding. Went again today for brunch because...well, you know...we REALLY love good oysters and...well...no, normally don't go to the same place twice in 72 hours but...enough explanation maybe.

Anyway, a few more observations gleaned:

- as expected, getting tables here will be tough going forward. we arrived right at 11, brunch start time, and were maybe the 3rd or 4th party seated. By 11:45, every table was full, the bar was packed and there was a line at least out to...if not out and on...the sidewalk

- today, despite being seriously tempted by "angels on horseback," we started with a dozen raw to share. 3 kegotanks since we have a friend who's a small scale operator on the Cheseapeake with the same variety so we know the flavor profile when straight from the water. 3 blue points just to compare something commonly found elsewhere. and 6 naked roys, an oyster I've always liked but don't usually see elsewhere in town. PD is consistent. All the oysters were extremely fresh and tasted exactly as they should. Naked Roys were the winner hands down for us but that's a matter of personal taste. A little less brine than the kegotanks. Much more complex flavor profile than blue points.

- the "dive sauce" is made with cilantro and jalpeno. my +1 doesn't do cilantro. I love the stuff. This is a great sauce to go with cocktail, mizu or mignonette however preferred

- my +1 ordered the hangar steak with eggs and bernaise. This is nothing special and a bit undersized relative to the price and what it should be. Same as many other spots quality/taste wise. Not as good as some others. But, hey, this is an oyster/seafood place so kind of silly ordering this anyway.

- I got the fried chicken and, cutting to the chase on this, can just say while I think I'd give a slight edge to the chicken Gillian Clark was pan frying at G-spot months ago, g-spot no longer exists and jandres374 is probably right:

...immediately order the fried chicken, hand down the best in the DMV.

IMO, the reason why this chicken rocks is about a) quality of the chicken, B) lightness and delicate crispiness of the breading which falls from the cooked bird maybe a tad too easily and c) great flavor in the crispy exterior and bird. Mine could have been left in the skillet another 30 secs or minute; a bit too red at center of the large breast portion. But, that's a nit and this is some great fried chicken. And, a huge portion with breast, thigh and leg, excellent slaw, surprisingly good kale with bacon and some potatoes we skipped.

Really wanted to try the donuts but it was just too much to order with the stuff above. Donuts are only sold as a portion of three and were described as pretty full sized. I'd love to hear what someone else who really appreciates donuts thinks about those. My standard is still Tabard.

Finally, for kicks if you're an oyster lunatic like me, open up the wooden box on every table. It contains a deck of cards with pearl dive/blackjack logo on one side with very cool oyster tidbits (historical, artistic, fashion, scientific, etc) on each card in Q&A format. One of the cards has a true/false: "Oysters are bad for cholesterol" with answer: "false." So, it's okay, and order away! Perfect for the oyster geek on your shopping list.

Prices and value meter (vm) as follows:

- 6 "premium" oysters at $2.50 each

- 6 "boutique" oysters at $2.00 each

vm: good. absolutely fairly priced given the quality and freshness. happy hour specials at a buck an oyster make for a great value on weekdays.

- hangar steak & eggs w/ bernaise: $15

vm: just okay since meh on the dish

- "fried chicken dinner" with all the sides mentioned above (a big plate): $19

vm: excellent!

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I've been wanting to write about Pearl Dive since we went a few weeks ago, but haven't been inspired, which is more a comment on my (lack of) ability to write than on the restaurant. I think if we'd suddenly been teleported there we would have immediately known it for a Jeff Black place. And that's a compliment, as we're big fans of Black's restaurants. As for the food, well, the fried chicken is every bit as good as everyone is saying, and the accompanying sides were great, too. And so were the desserts. MrP quite liked his fried shrimp, too. There's more here than oysters to be excited about.

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We went to Pearl Dive Oyster Palace last night. Going early on Christmas Eve was the perfect time to go - no wait at all. Neither my husband nor I eat oysters, but there seemed to be enough diversity on the menu to satisfy us. I started with the barbecued shrimp. They were fantastic. Nice-sized shrimp, perfectly cooked, and a kicking spice rub and sauce. I would come back again just for these. I had the fried chicken as an entree and I agree with previous assessments. It is moist, tender chicken with a delicately crispy skin. Delicious. I couldn't finish a fraction of it. I had some for lunch today and there is still more to go. My husband had redfish. He loved the crispy flavorful skin on the fish. Looks like they really know how to keep things crisp at Pearl Dive.

A friend asked me today why we would go there when we don't eat oysters. We didn't feel like we missed anything and there's lots more to recommend (great drinks and a killer eggnog pie). We'll be back.

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Taking advantage of a vacation day, we arrived to Pearl Dive just after 4 p.m. for happy hour oysters. They were Virginia oysters, cleanly shucked, served on a tray of ice with a standard cocktail sauce and a zippy Mignionette (Spelling?). They were delicious. Super fresh, tasting of an ocean breeze. By 5:00, the bar was slammed, with everyone ordering oysters. Too bad the bar area is so small. It is hard to eat oysters if you have to stand up with drink in hand.

We didn't stay for dinner, but if this place does nothing more than drinks and oysters it would be a winner. $12 for a great presentation of superb oysters is a deal!

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Regretfully unimpressed by Pearl Dive. Place is beautiful but service deeply lacking, overall vibe is careless. An impressive row of gins on the shelf is apparently for decoration only as my bartender had absolutely no idea how to make a martini (painfully warm)... truly confounding! As for the oysters 5 out of 6 were absolutely perfect- very fresh. Dive juice is great. 6th oyster was discolored and lifeless, probably fine to eat but not one I'd serve to a guest. Save the ugly ones for the po' boy. Which I didn't get, because grouchy from bad service gave up after oysters. Definitely a meh of an experience. Pity, I really do like Black's other stuff- especially the fish market...

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Regretfully unimpressed by Pearl Dive. Place is beautiful but service deeply lacking, overall vibe is careless. An impressive row of gins on the shelf is apparently for decoration only as my bartender had absolutely no idea how to make a martini (painfully warm)... truly confounding! As for the oysters 5 out of 6 were absolutely perfect- very fresh. Dive juice is great. 6th oyster was discolored and lifeless, probably fine to eat but not one I'd serve to a guest. Save the ugly ones for the po' boy. Which I didn't get, because grouchy from bad service gave up after oysters. Definitely a meh of an experience. Pity, I really do like Black's other stuff- especially the fish market...

Wow, really interesting but totally cool inasmuch as all views have a place here. When you go a place regularly, as I've been doing with Pearl Dive, it doesn't make sense to keep posting reports unless there's something new to say. Suffice to say here though, having been there now about 5 times for dinner, lunch, brunch and happy hour, I haven't had a bad oyster or meal yet. And everyone I've brought there (maybe 10 or 12 people in total) felt the same.

On the specifics of your experience, two reactions. First, on service, it's been generally fine for us but this isn't the standout quality of Pearl Dive. It's moderately priced and, with that comes a more moderate (and probably less consistent) level of service than one might get at a BlackSalt, Palena, CityZen or whatever. Second, while 5 of 6 oysters being perfect is very good, I've never had a bad oyster there of maybe 10 dozen or so I've had. Surely, if you'd called for a manager, they'd have replaced the bad oyster instantly, perhaps even with an extra one to compensate.

But, none of that means they won't get it wrong at times or that someone else can't have a very different experience. Consistency is probably the toughest thing to achieve for any restaurant. All that said, MTPeter, maybe worth giving it another shot using whatever input from different folks on this thread you find credible. It's overwhelmingly positive but that doesn't mean it's all right. If there are any problems, give the place a chance to rectify them, calling for a manager if the waitperson isn't getting it done. Only fair.

* Disclosure: I have no vested interest in Pearl Dive, any Black Restaurant and have never met the owners. My views on Pearl Dive are as with any restaurant: based on what I've experienced and, in this case, it's a new place I'm just very excited about based on what's coming out of their kitchen and the value they offer.

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It's moderately priced and, with that comes a more moderate (and probably less consistent) level of service than one might get at a BlackSalt, Palena, CityZen or whatever.

Was there for dinner this past Friday (my second time only) and had the oddest service mishap. My daughter ordered the oyster po'boy and they brought her a shrimp po'boy... Might be a common mistake at any similar restaurant except there's no such thing as a shrimp po'boy on Pearl Dive's menu (which the waitress also noted after the fact).

That said, the food itself was great. The (correct) po'boy was very tasty, oysters superb. I had the CEBLT po'boy, which was decadent, but honestly in a do-over I'd go for the oyster po'boy instead. To start, we had the braised pork cheeks appetizer -- it is a must-try. The cheeks were perfectly cooked, meltingly tender, the sauce so packed with rich flavor and depth I wanted to lick the plate.

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Met a couple friends for a late lunch at Pearl Dive today. We arrived around 2pm and grabbed a drink at the bar since it was pretty crowded, although we were seated within 10 min or so. The biggest negative of the meal was at this point when a waiter greeted us as we sat and brought us water, but then no one came by our table for the next 20-25 min except for one of table runners coming by one time to refill our water. Luckily we hadn't seen these friends in a while so we were fine chatting for a bit, but it got pretty ridiculous. I finally waved down a manger (who had walked by our table more than a few times), but it was still probably another 4-5 min before the waitress finally came to take our order. From here everything was pretty good (although I was a bit annoyed with the lack of apology for the long wait).

I ordered the C.E.B.L.T. Po-Boy ($11 Fried Catfish, Farm Egg, Benton’s Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato), which despite listing it on the website does not include fries. You have to pay an extra $3 for fries, salad, or chips on the side. The ingredients are obviously top quality, but the sandwich itself was a little on the small side (maybe 5 inches max, if that). The egg made it messy, but the bacon was crispy and delicious. I think it would've also helped to have a little remoulade or aioli or something as well. I thought the fries were excellent (crisp with a good saltiness), but also think they should come with the sandwich. I really enjoyed them with the cajun/spicy seasoning that's on the table.

My +1 had the Green Chile Cheeseburger ($11 Roasted Green Chilies, Pepper Jack Cheese, Bacon, Cayenne Aioli) with fries. This is actually two patties and is a pretty significant burger. I only had a small bite, but liked the taste of the chilies with everything else. The other two at our table had Pulled B.B.Q. Chicken Sandwich ($9) and Gulf Shrimp Gumbo ($19). I didn't try either, but they looked good and both plates were clean at the end of the meal.

I had heard enough about the pie that we decided to split a piece of Pumpkin Streusel Pie ($6 / a la mode $8 Spiced Pumpkin Filling, Pecan Streusel Topping) with cinnamon ice cream (other choices were vanilla, chocolate, and butter pecan). We all though this was really good. A bit different from a normal pumpkin pie with the streusel on top and the cinnamon ice cream complimented it nicely.

All in all I really like the decor and the space and all our food was good, but I was a bit turned off with the service. I actually already have plans to come back with some girlfriends this week for dinner so I'm looking forward to giving it another shot and trying out some entrees.

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no one came by our table for the next 20-25 min except for one of table runners coming by one time to refill our water. Luckily we hadn't seen these friends in a while so we were fine chatting for a bit, but it got pretty ridiculous. I finally waved down a manger (who had walked by our table more than a few times), but it was still probably another 4-5 min before the waitress finally came

The exact same thing happened to me a few weeks back. I walked out. As a restaurant manager, if a guest stands up from a table and approaches you near the kitchen with an issue, it's probably best to resolve that issue immediately. Immediately. Especially after having waited for 20+ minutes. But alas, the manager seemed not to care and I felt totally ignored.

The food and aesthetics and Pearl Dive are wonderful. But my last experience left me with the feeling that Pearl Dive didn't really care about my business, because the know they'll have an hour wait for dinner every night.

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So I was back at Pearl Dive last night to give dinner a shot. My 3 friends and I met at the bar before our 6:30 "reservations" (one friend lives a block away, and Pearl Dive will let neighborhood residents reserve seats before 6:30pm). Oddly, Black Jack didn't open until 6pm, so when I arrived at 5:45, the Pearl Dive bar was slammed. I thought it a bit odd that such a popular place wouldn't open until that late, but whatever. I had a glass of the half price wine downstairs (the white was a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc for $5), and then a glass of the half price prosecco ($4.50) when we went upstairs for a drink to check out the space.

Once it was time to be seated the restaurant was packed. After being seated we had to wait a bit for our waiter to come by, but not nearly as long as I waited on Saturday, thankfully. He wasn't the most attentive, but he was friendly and helpful with menu suggestions. The bread basket (first one is free...after that $3) included some yummy homemade rolls. The jalapeno cornbread was a little dry for my taste, and I though the basket would've been improved if it came with butter.

The four of us shared two appetizers, the Cornmeal Crusted Chesapeake Oysters ($9 - Andouille Sausage- Sweet Potato Hash) and the Angels on Horseback ($9 - Grilled-Bacon Wrapped Oysters, Vin Blanc, Vinegar Reduction). I am not usually an oyster fan (have never been able to get into them raw on the half shell), but I very much liked both of these preparations. Each order came with 4 oysters, which was great for sharing among our table. The cornmeal crust was nice and cruncy, and the sauce underneath had a great kick. The bacon wrapped version had a wonderful smoky grill flavor. I'd recommend both of these to oyster lovers and skeptics alike.

Two of my friends had Seafood Gumbo ($22 - Oyster, Shrimp and Local Crab), and the bite I had was quite spicy. It was also a fairly large serving that neither of them were able to finish. The friend with the Crawfish Etouffee ($19 - Louisiana Crawfish, Buttered Rice, Garlic Bread) seemed pleased with her dish as well. It was funny to me how similar the gumbo and etouffee looked when brought out, but they were certainly very different tasting.

On the recommendation of a friend, I had Que Sueno de los Gatos “What Cats Dream Of” ($22 - Pearl Dive Seafood Stew; Shrimp, Redfish, Squid, Mussels, Saffron Milk). I loved the name, but wasn't as enamored of the dish itself. There was certainly plenty of high-quality seafood in the stew, along with some spinach, but I just wanted something more. For me it was missing some spice or extra flavor. After tasting the gumbo I was left wishing I had ordered that instead.

After drinks, apps, and entrees, we were unfortunately too full for pie, but next time I will save room since I really enjoyed it on my first trip.

All in all, the service was somewhat redeemed for me on this trip, and I liked the food once again, but I can't seem myself waiting an hour plus for a table here. If I can come back with a neighborhood resident, or on the early side, I'd definitely do that though.

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