An Oyster Feast at Danton's

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Last week, Amber Ambrose pointed out -- quite accurately -- that the fuss over The Oceanaire's $1 East Coast oysters was somewhat mystifying when you can get fresh, fat Gulf oysters at any number of Houston restaurants for far less money.

Danton's (4611 Montrose, 713-807-8889) is one of those restaurants. In its darkly sleek bar on Mondays through Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m., a dozen oysters go for $9.99. Last week, those oysters were from San Antonio Bay, just off Matagorda. That's not as inexpensive as Captain Benny's, for sure, but you're paying for ambiance in your happy hour here: a warm and inviting bar with good wine and beer selections versus a boat hull with Sutter Home wine in tiny, picnic-sized bottles. (And I point out these differences with love, mind you.)

I treated myself to an all-oyster dinner last week in the bar, catching up on reading and overhearing amusing snippets of conversation from the regular patrons.

The other thing you're paying extra for at Danton's is the great service. Young, pretty bartender Christin was working the room like an old pro. All the regulars knew her, and she was always waiting with a napkin or a glass of water before you even knew you needed one. I'm willing to pay an extra $4 or $5 for that.

After finishing off my oysters -- not as plump as last year's, but briny and buttery nevertheless -- with plenty of horseradish to wash them down, I ordered a cup of the oyster stew. A commenter was asking a few weeks ago where to get tasso in Houston. One such place is at Danton's, where they're currently offering the oyster stew with or without tasso. I ordered it emphatically with.

Oyster stew, for me, can be a little overwhelmingly creamy after a while. After all, it's made nearly entirely with heavy cream and butter. But the smoky flavor of that pork butt cuts right through the mouth-coating thickness, making for an ideally balanced -- if still quite fatty -- cup of stew. And at $6.95, it's not going to break the bank.

It was especially good washed down with a super hoppy Saint Arnold Elissa IPA and the faint strains of Wheel of Fortune playing on the flat-screen TV above the bar. Three people sitting there were watching it intently. The middle woman, who was celebrating her 84th birthday, started complaining to her younger dining companions about all the old men who wouldn't leave her alone at the retirement community where she lives.

We should all be so lucky when we're 84 years old.

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