I’ve lived in Arkansas my entire life, and I can’t really think of any other place I’d rather be. But while I love my state, there’s a huge problem we face here every single day that I feel I must address: we’re landlocked, and that’s a tragedy for a seafood lover like myself. I’m the sort of person who plans vacations around what kind of food is available, and any time I can make it to one of the coasts, I’m in a heaven populated by shellfish, mollusks, and pretty much anything that swims and has gills. All is not lost around here for a person like me, though, because for nearly 37 years the Little Rock Oyster Bar has been serving up the good stuff, and it’s as fresh and tasty as you can find in any ocean town.
For the uninitiated, the raw oyster on the half shell is one of those foods that causes folks to shy away, and I admit that they aren’t pretty. I can only imagine the looks that the first caveman who ever pried open one of the black, misshapen shells and slurped down the gray, slimy meat inside must have gotten from all the other hunter-gatherers. I guarantee one thing about that caveman, though: he was in such a state of bliss at the taste that he didn’t even notice. Oysters are like that. An order of a dozen of these beauties at the Oyster Bar varies with the market price ($9.95 on our last visit), and they’re served with a few packages of saltines on a no-frills plastic tray reminiscent of something you might see in a high school cafeteria. But don’t let the mundane presentation bother you — these oysters are fresh, cold, and have a light, sweet, briny flavor that’s like taking a bite out of a summer day on the beach. I’m honestly not sure how the folks who run the place manage to serve up oysters with this level of freshness so far from any body of salt water, but give credit where credit is due: they’re on top of things. Pay a visit to the condiment bar if you need a bit of spice — lemon, horseradish, cocktail sauce, and raw onions are all available in a serve-yourself capacity. And as a perfect accompaniment to those cold, firm oysters, get a pitcher of what I guarantee is the coldest beer in Little Rock, beer so cold that even domestic light beer tastes like the refreshing nectar of the gods.