Bartender Chat: Bryan of Danton's

This week I did what I do pretty much every other Monday evening. I went over to Danton's, winner of 2011's Best Cajun and Best Seafood restaurant awards in the Houston Press Best of Houston edition, to partake in what French poet Léon-Paul Fargue said was akin to "...kissing the sea on the lips." I dined on a few dozen delicious, fresh and fat raw oysters, which truly is the closest any of us will ever come to making out with a Mermaid/man.

Why Mondays, you ask? Oh, because during happy hour, they're a mere $5.50 a dozen. Every time I go, I sit at the bar, grab a glass of wine and eat at least one dozen, maybe two, and I always get few of those big, perfectly seasoned, spicy, lemony peel-and-eat shrimp (75 cents each). I once accidentally squirted some shrimp-juice in my eye and it burned for like, two days. That's how good they are.

I've been going to Danton's for their happy hour oysters for about two years, and I always see the same friendly faces behind the bar, one of them belonging to bar manager Bryan. It gets pretty busy in there on Monday nights, but he's always quick with the drinks and keeps the trays of fresh-shucked bivalves coming. I've seen some tables order dozen after dozen, and Bryan told me there's a regular who can put away 10 dozen. One hundred twenty oysters, y'all.

On this particular Monday, while enjoying my oysters (and getting more than 1000 percent of my daily recommended value of zinc...) I got to know a little bit about Bryan and his Oyster Bar.

Where are you from? I'm from upstate New York...Schenectady. My brother and his wife moved down here a few years before I did, so I came down to be closer to them and just for a change of scenery.

How long have you been bartending at Danton's? I've been at Danton's for almost three years, since I moved here in 2009, but I've been bartending for about nine years. In New York, I worked at this Irish pub called Pinhead Susan's. It's a really cool place.

How would you describe the bar's aesthetic? It's a good neighborhood bar, and it's pretty low-key. It's got the dark wood and has a nice, relaxing vibe to it. The two guys that own this place have been friends their whole lives, so all the pictures on the walls are real family photos.

How would you describe the crowd? It's comfortable, friendly, and we get a lot of regulars. We've had the same group of bartenders for quite a while so the regulars know us; they don't have to get used to new faces. We're always here. A lot of times, we'll see someone coming and have their drink ready at the bar top for them. It's a familiar kind of place. We get a lot of people from Louisiana in here, and they tell us the food is right on. They're always surprised to hear the owners aren't from New Orleans. They're three-generation Houstonians.

Do you have a favorite menu item? Oh man, I eat the fried shrimp about four or five times a week, and the grilled shrimp BLT is a favorite. Right now, the crawfish -- they're so good...huge. I came in yesterday, on my day off, to get crawfish.

Do you have a specialty or a drink you pride yourself on? I've been told several times that I make a really good cosmo. I don't really know; I've never had one.

At the end of my shift, I pour a ______. Mr. Jack Daniels.

Favorite spots around town to get a drink? A lot of us go over to Griff's when we're done for the night. It's right around the corner.

* Wildcard: If you could be a member of any TV sitcom family, which would it be? I've been watching a lot of Seinfeld lately and I feel like I'm in the show. It's one of those shows...that... if it's on, I have to watch.

Danton's Gulf Coast Seafood Kitchen, located at 4611 Montrose, 77006, hosts happy hour in the Oyster Bar from 4 to 7 p.m., and you can get half-price (currently $5.50) oysters on the half shell on Mondays from 4 to 8 p.m. They have great drink specials too -- $3 domestics, $4 wells (Tito's, Seagrams, Bacardi, Jim Beam) and $5 house wine. Don't miss out on their "Bloody Danton" either. It's made with gumbo! Visit Danton's site or their Facebook for more info.

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Ginny Braud
Contact: Ginny Braud