EaT: An Oyster Bar has been on my restaurant “to-eat” list for quite a while, but I’ve repeatedly put if off because, frankly, oysters kinda scare me. The first time I had oysters was in the Tugboat Combo fish and chips basket at the Hawthorne Fish House, and since they were breaded and fried, I couldn’t tell what they were. I bit into one and got an unexpected mouthful of oystery goo. It didn’t taste bad, but it wasn’t what I expected, and ever since I’ve been a little wary of them. Last night I took a step in overcoming my oyster aversion.
EaT: An Oyster Bar is located on N Williams Ave just south of Pix Patisserie and Lincoln Restaurant. The interior has a sort of Bourbon Street feel, but without the humidity. You can seat yourself at a table or the bar and help yourself to free crackers while you peruse the menu. If the weather is nice, they’ll have the garage-door-style storefront open and you can enjoy your meal in the afternoon sun. A member of the waitstaff will bring you a carafe of water and some glasses and take additional drink orders before giving you time to decide on food.
The first thing you’ll see on the menu is, of course, oysters. They are available raw at the market price, which was $21 for a dozen or $11.50 for a half-dozen, or baked at $7 for three or $12 for six. The baked options are Rockefeller, made with fresh spinach and watercress and topped with Parmesan cheese, or Bienville with a mushroom bechamel sauce and Trinity vegetables. EaT also offers various oyster shooters for $3 a pop.
I couldn’t quite get myself to order raw oysters, even though I’d really like to try them someday, so we shared three oysters Rockefeller instead. They were delicious, hot from the broiler, and I think we should have ordered six instead.
If oysters aren’t your style or if you want something else with them, you could have a po boy or one of several delicious cajun and creole dishes they serve, like seafood gumbo, blackened catfish, or cajun bbq shrimp. We went with an oyster po boy and jambalaya to complete our meals.
EaT offers po boys with shrimp, oyster, catfish, or “debris,” which is beef roast cooked such that it falls into delicious little bits. The po boys come on a toasted French roll with tomatoes, cabbage, pickles, and come-back sauce in a basket with fries. You can also add a little spice yourself with Louisiana hot sauce on the table, or with their chili-infused vinegar. The oyster Po Boy was very good and came loaded with enough fried oysters that we ate a few to make it easier to close the sandwich. The sauce was good and didn’t overpower the flavor of the oysters.
The jambalaya was also very good. EaT’s jambalaya is a Cajun-style “brown” jambalaya rather than a Creole-style “red” jambalaya made with tomatoes or tomato sauce. It is a traditional rice, not pasta, dish with the Trinity vegetables, chicken, and house-made Andouille sausage. The sausage was the best part of the dish, and there was plenty of it. Overall, the dish wasn’t very spicy, but the sausage had just enough heat to keep me interested. I tried adding some hot sauce to a couple of bites, but it didn’t need it and I enjoyed it better without.
The food was all very delicious, so I give a hearty recommendation for that, but we did note a couple of negative things about EaT. One of these is that the service was… casual… It wasn’t awful, and it wouldn’t stop me from eating there again, but the waitstaff seemed bored, or as if they had better things to do than take our orders and bring us our food. Though I’m sure there are far more interesting things to do than wait tables, cheerful and friendly service makes a meal much more enjoyable.
The other thing we noticed was that some of the dishes weren’t as clean as they could have been. One of the cups brought to our table had something on the rim, and the plates brought out with the oysters Rockefeller had some dry flakes of something on them. They may have just been harmless dry herbs from the kitchen, and unlike the cup, we didn’t send the plates back, but dirty dishes twice in one visit needs to be noted.
The last thing I think could use some improvement is the website. Often my first impression of a restaurant comes from the website, because I like to look at the menu before I go or check to see when they’re open or if they have a happy hour. I was able to find the menus on EaT’s site, but they’re sort of tucked away at the bottom of the “At The Bar” page and I had to hunt around a bit before I found them. So if you want to check out the menus before you go, that’s where they are, but I would definitely recommend to the owners of EaT that they have their website redesigned.
Despite these few small complaints, the overall experience at EaT: An Oyster Bar was good. The food was delicious, and I’m sure we’ll come back again. When we do, maybe I’ll be ready to try some oysters on the half shell.
3808 N. Williams
Portland, OR 97227