Oysters Orleans Half Shell Oyster House
If you’re hearing the siren call of the Cajun cook-off, then Gulfport, Mississippi-based Half Shell Oyster House must be nearby. A transplant, but under the watchful eye of Florida resident Dino Mirando, president of Half Shell Oyster House Florida, the restaurant represents a welcome influx of creole sensibility, typified in the Oysters Orleans. The oysters may get top billing, but without Half Shell’s compound butter and homemade Cajun seasoning in the supporting cast there’s nothing “Orleans” about it. Blended in-house, Half Shell’s compound butter mixes a special combination of Cajun seasonings, garlic and adobe pepper, spicing up the whole affair, bringing each bite back to the Big Easy. “It’s one of my favorite dishes,” says Mirando. “It’s got a light kick, but not the type that sticks around. Cajun isn’t always hot, it’s just a lot of balanced seasonings.” After the oysters are basted, they’re opened and set to charbroil over an open flame, heating but not cooking, stewing in the oyster’s natural briny juices.

Crispy Oyster Flamenco The Table Creekside
Swing by The Table Creekside and try the dish that chef Pedro Flores says almost started a foodie uprising when it was removed from the happy hour listings. Served as a series of delectable bites, each oyster is lightly seasoned and coated with an in-house mix that includes wheat flour, potato flour, a bit of chickpea flour for crispness, sea salt and pepper. Double-dipping the oysters in seasoning and brine, Flores gives them a quick deep-frying before topping them individually with a Key Lime aioli made from fresh squeezed Key Limes, mayo, Dijon mustard and Tabasco. A healthy dose of Banana Pepper Mignonette—a mix of finely chopped Italian banana peppers, red onions, cilantro and lime juice—tops off the dish. But even with so many flavors bouncing around, Flores brings it all back to the oyster, which he prefers to get from the Gulf. “They’re really meaty,” Flores says. “The most important thing is the quality of the oyster.”

Oyster Po’ Boy Duval’s
For those with a hankering for heartier helpings, Duval’s offers its own version of the classic po’ boy, a Southern seafood staple. Starting with a fresh-baked baguette and loading it up with six or seven plump fried oysters, then adding a healthy serving of Rajun-Cajun remoulade and topping it off with Napa cabbage and sliced Roma tomatoes, there’s a reason it’s become a fan favorite. “The freshest ingredients make the best po’ boy and we have nothing but fresh,” says Nils Tarantik, executive chef at Duval’s. “The public notices when it’s fresh versus frozen. [When it’s fresh] it’s got that sweet, briny flavor.” To bring out that flavor, Duval’s tosses the oysters in a light egg batter and then seasoned flour, before lightly frying, leaving a crisp outside and juicy oyster inside. The signature remoulade adds a bit of spice and smokiness to the flavor, offsetting the sweet of the seafood. SRQ