By Anitra Brown

Oysters-1024x768Okay. I will admit it. I was an oyster virgin. It’s true. Until very recently, I had never, in my life, bitten, slurped or chewed the shelled sea delicacy. I had convinced myself that I would not enjoy the oyster’s taste or texture—whether grilled, charbroiled, fried or raw.

I was wrong.

And if there is any place to taste your first oyster or your hundredth and first oyster, it’s Half Shell on the Bayou, 2517 Bayou Road. It is the classic neighborhood joint. And Ninth Ward native and owner Mark Johari Lawes makes you feel like a neighbor with his big personality and gregarious manner.

Without a doubt, Half Shell is for oyster lovers. Order them by the half dozen or the dozen, Rockefeller, raw or charbroiled. I enjoyed the house special Voodoo Bleu Oysters—charbroiled then topped with generous chunks of smoky bacon and delicate bleu cheese crumbles.

When the aromatic platter of oysters arrived, I was still a bit apprehensive. Equipped my oyster fork, I dug in, though. To my surprise they were quite good. As the saying goes, don’t knock it until you try it. Now, I won’t declare myself the world’s biggest oyster fan. In fact, I am still certain that I wouldn’t want them raw. But I am a fan of Half Shell on the Bayou,  one of the newest businesses along Bayou Road, a bustling corridor of Black-owned businesses.

If oysters aren’t your thing, don’t fret. Half Shell on the Bayou offers lots of unpretentious, straightforward, New Orleans-inspired fare, with crab cakes and barbecue shrimp on the appetizer menu and seafood platters, rib-eye steak, po-boys and burgers rounding out the entrée offerings—all reasonably priced. Daily specials include red beans and rice on Mondays and seafood pasta on Fridays. A full breakfast is served every day, and a catering menu is on its way.

Open since August 2014, Lawes, whose partner in the endeavor is one of his sons, says business has been good.

And Lawes knows business. He has owned a number of night clubs, eateries and even a limousine company in the New Orleans area. He is the former owner of Café Negril.

“I know the restaurant and the bar business. I employ good people. I know I serve good food,” he says. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to leave a legacy for my children.”

Half Shell on the Bayou opens at 4 p.m. daily. For more information, visit www.halfshellneworleans.com or call (504) 558-4403.