Typically the words “all you can eat” should have you turning tail and finding somewhere else to spend your money. But that’s not always the case, as I recently discovered this week at The Oyster Bar.
In earlier days—before electric appliances were commonplace in most American households—Monday was known as “wash day.” In many southern homes, especially those found in New Orleans, wash day also meant a steaming pot of red beans and rice for supper. Traditionally, women of the house would place a pot of beans on the stove, leaving it to simmer all day, allowing them time to tend to the laundry.
Today, we tend to pile our dirty laundry into a big metal machine just about any day of the week, giving us ample time to prepare a pot of beans just about any day we’d like. But at The Oyster Bar—a Little Rock landmark since 1975—you’ll find the wash day tradition is alive and well. And almost as if you’re visiting an old friend who’s prepared a heaping pot to share, you can eat as much as you’d like—an endless bowl—all for only $5.95. It may well be the best bargain bowl in town.
There are some real Oyster Bar fanatics in Arkansas—I even know a couple that got married at the place. That’s real love. This was my first time at the OB—I felt I had lived in Little Rock long enough that it would be a crime not to try it.
It’s spacious inside, family-friendly, and a lot cleaner than I expected based on its worn exterior. Hunger gnawed at my belly as soon as I entered, I was prepared to feast.
The above-mentioned “all-you-can-eat” red beans and rice was surprisingly good. It comes with a substantial bit of andouille sausage blended into the mix, which makes it an even better value in my opinion. The broth is thin, but just slightly spicy. The rice was nicely done, fluffy and not overwhelming the beans. The most bowls consumed at our table was a measly three—but I imagine many more have been gulped down by more serious challengers. Perhaps one of the most delightful parts of the meal was the complimentary buttered and grilled French bread that accompanies the stew. It was soft, flavorful, and perfect for sopping up any residual juices left upon finishing any given bowl. Of course, as a friend reminded me, if you’re shooting for the coveted title of “red beans and rice champion eater,” you don’t fill up on bread.
The Oyster Bar is located at 3003 W. Markham, Little Rock. The red beans and rice “all you can eat special” is only available on Mondays. For a full list of their daily specials, see this link.