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Bivalve Season Is Here

Houston restaurants are ready to get shucking.

"Eating oysters and recycling shells is a tasty way to save the bay."

El Big Bad needs to hurry it up because we can't wait for it to open.

So where can you get the fresh, plump gulf oysters now that commercial oystermen are hauling them in? Here are just a few places in town that either have gulf oysters on the menu now or will be serving them later in the season.

Oh, and for the record, there's no truth to the old adage that you can eat oysters only during months that contain an "r" (meaning, don't touch 'em in May, June, July or August). That came from the pre-refrigeration days when there was no way to keep oysters cool after harvesting during the hot summer months. It is true, however, that oysters are generally tastier and fatter when harvested in the winter or spring, when the water in which they live is cooler.

Gilhooley's specializes in oysters cooked any way you like them.
Daniel Kramer
Gilhooley's specializes in oysters cooked any way you like them.
From top left: Hibiscus-infused tequila agua fresca; chimichurri-grilled Texas redfish; fruit margarita; mangalitsa chicken tamale topped with Oaxacan mole
Mai Pham
From top left: Hibiscus-infused tequila agua fresca; chimichurri-grilled Texas redfish; fruit margarita; mangalitsa chicken tamale topped with Oaxacan mole

Liberty Kitchen Bar and Oysterette

The newest addition to the Liberty Kitchen, BRC Gastropub and Petite Sweets family is open for business and doing oysters in a big way. Chef Travis Lenig explains that they get oysters from all over — Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Nova Scotia, British Columbia and, of course, our local waters.

"We get them from the gulf year-round," Lenig says. "Sometimes they're not great, but the majority of the time they're good. They're just getting bigger now. The water is getting cooler and they're eating more, so they're growing."

The prices change according to the market, but right now, Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar, the Oysterette's sister, has Gulf of Mexico oysters on the menu for $14.50 per dozen.

Goode Company Seafood

Over at Goode Co., oysters can be found on tables year-round, and that includes our own Galveston Bay bivalves. A manager explains that later in the season, Goode Co. will start getting oysters from other coastal bays, and at that point they'll begin to feature oysters by appellation. For now, a dozen oysters from Galveston Bay at Goode Co. will set you back $13.95.

Gilhooley's

The amiable folks over at Gilhooley's in Dickinson tell us they get Galveston Bay oysters from the distributor Misho's Oyster Company in San Leon. The owner, Misho Ivic, picks out the best oysters to send to Gilhooley's, where they are served up fresh in a variety of ways (think smoked, grilled, baked or raw).

Desiree Mack, the manager at Gilhooley's, says oyster prices have been going up every year, but for now, they're some of the cheapest (and best) in Texas at $9.50 per dozen.

Eleven XI

"We won't serve gulf oysters during the hot months," Eleven XI general manager Joe Welborn explains. "We just won't serve oysters that have been steamed open and then rubber-banded."

As of this moment, it's still "the hot months" in Houston, but Welborn says he looks forward to truckloads of gulf oysters quite soon. He expects that all the appellation oysters will be gone within the first two to three weeks of their availability because they're so desirable. During the height of the season, though, Welborn anticipates having 12 to 18 appellation varieties from as far north as Prince Edward Island.

Eleven XI currently has "East Coast Oysters" on the menu for $30 per dozen, but Welborn says once the gulf oysters come in, they'll probably be about $1 apiece and will be shucked in front of customers, the best way to display their freshness.

We know there are many, many places to get raw oysters around our great city, so let us know where you go for delicious shucking.
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Top Five

Top 5 Soul Food Restaurants in Houston
Feed your soul and your stomach at these places.

Joanna O'Leary

If I had to choose a single cuisine for my final meal, soul food would be a top contender. I don't much care that the medical establishment says it's not so great for my health, and actually, I don't much believe them, either. How can what makes my soul (and my stomach) sing not help my body in some way? Fools. Here are five places where I know I can find good soul food in Houston:

5.Esther's Cajun Cafe and Soul Food.Like most soul food joints, Esther's offers cafeteria-style dining, oxtails and all the usual suspects (macaroni and cheese, collard greens, yams, etc.) in terms of sides. What sets it apart is the inclusion of NOLA favorites such as po-boys, étouffée and dirty rice served comfort-food style (read: mild seasonings and large portions). It's a delightful and delicious fusion of Southern styles. 

4.Alfreda's Cafeteria.When the Houston Press recommended ten restaurants to visit in the Third Ward, Alfreda's unsurprisingly earned a place on the list. Regulars know to go early in the day to get prime portions of baked chicken, oxtails, ribs and green beans; latecomers, never fear: Whatever's left is still good.

3.Just Oxtails Soul Food. This restaurant would probably be just as successful if it sold oxtails — and the ones here are fantastic — and nothing else, but it certainly doesn't hurt that its chicken and dumplings and its pork chops are also terrific. Equally appealing is the staff's exuberant, attentive service; you're guaranteed to leave smiling as well as full.

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