With an outstanding history of legendary local restaurants stretching back for decades, who would think that an out-of-town entry would crack our list of culinary favorites in Baton Rouge? We came of age when names like Ralph and Kacoos, Mike and Tony's, Jack Sabin's, Jake Staples and the original Phil's Oyster Bar dominated the who's who in the Capitol City restaurant scene.
So when the Mississippi-based Half Shell Oyster House opened the Southern Pearl Oyster House in 2019, we yawned with excitement over the news, but made a mental note to try it on a slow day. Then the world went crazy in 2020, as COVID closed everything, restaurants included.
With our dining comfort nearly back to normal, we finally visited Southern Pearl for a weekday summer late lunch -- and now we're sorry we waited so long.
Right off, we'll say we didn't have oysters, as we still (generally) follow that old-timer's advice about avoiding the tasty crustaceans in months that don't have an "R." (Although, out of desperation, we have occasionally pronounced the eighth month of the year as AuRgust.) Our hungry group chose three lunch specials: Smoky Bacon Shrimp and Grits, Seafood Pot Pie, and a classic fried shrimp plate.
The shrimp and grits delivered on every promise: soft, smooth grits swimming in a smoky cream sauce, surrounded by plentiful shrimp and lots of bacon. We recommend you ask for a spoon to be sure you get every last bit of this tasty dish.
The pot pie was topped with a flat buttermilk crust, covering a steaming bowl of pot pie filling accompanied by shrimp, crawfish and crab meat. We would love to return on a cold November day to fully appreciate the hot and filling dish.
The fried shrimp lunch plate featured approximately 10 large shrimp, fried in a golden brown cornmeal-based batter.
We skipped dessert, largely because the sweet potato creme brulee side dish was an adequate sweet substitute.
At its heart, Southern Pearl is a classic New Orleans-style oyster house. The central bar invites patrons to enjoy a cool beverage while sucking down on a tasty dozen raw, all accompanied by a soundtrack of classic Louisiana music from Professor Longhair, Buckwheat Zydeco, Trumpet Mafia and lots of others.
Long story short: we'll be back, and recommend you stop in for a try if you haven't already.
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