Learning To Love Gulf Oysters at S&D Oyster Company

My McKinney Avenue walk was more than just a bar crawl. I also checked an item off my list I've been avoiding. I could say that I've been waiting till September to enjoy the delicacy I enjoyed many times before, but really I'd been using the old rule as an excuse. I was afraid of Gulf oysters.

Robb Walsh summed things up best with this intro to his Southerner's Guide to Oysters, published last year in Garden and Gun:

When you eat cheap Gulf oysters in New Orleans, the shuckers jive you about those tiny three-dollar oysters up north. And when you eat gourmet oysters in New York, the shuckers lecture that Gulf oysters are flavorless and they are likely to kill you. Oyster loyalties are provincial. Or to paraphrase the gastronome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin: "Tell me what kind of oysters you eat, and I will tell you where you live."

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I love those tiny manageable three-dollar oysters. They're clean and super briny and I eat them plain with a squeeze of lemon. Gulf oysters, on the other hand, looked unwieldy. A creamy color seemed off-putting. I imagined them smelling of funky river beds and feet. And I couldn't have been more wrong.

S&D Oyster Company was as jumping as Frankie's Saturday afternoon. I figured it was time to lose my Gulf-oyster virginity. The restaurant was serving oysters from Galveston Bay, and a woman working the front claimed they'd shucked near 3,000 that day. Turnover is always good in the oyster business. It keeps things fresh.

I ordered a measly half dozen and watched my waiter mix ketchup, lemon and Worcestershire with an obscene amount of horseradish. I asked him how a Southerner ate an oyster and listened as he prescribed a saltine cracker, an oyster and a big dollop of cocktail sauce.

The verdict? I'm a fan. Blanketed in saltine, horseradish and ketchup flavors, I couldn't even taste the oyster I was eating. I tried my second just like I had them before, slurped right from the shells with only a drop or two of lemon, and I never looked back, slurping my way through the rest of my plate amidst the yellow walls, hex floor tiles and neon beer signs at S&D. If they had a good bar to post up at, I'd have my new oyster haunt. But at least I have a new oyster.

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