Bourbon Street Oyster Bar & Grill, 2600 W 7th Street, Ste 153, FW. 817-720-3444. 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-11pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Call it admirable moxie or just a considerable leap of business faith.
There’s no other way of describing the impetus behind the Dallas-based Kelcher Entertainment Group establishing their first Fort Worth eateries in what some have described as the Bermuda Triangle of restaurant locations. Its Montgomery Plaza corner spot has devoured countless restaurant “concepts,” sometimes only months after opening.
But this challenging bit of real estate didn’t deter identical twins Mark and Dirk Kelcher, who, along with partner Kyle Hidell, established Bourbon Street Oyster Bar & Grill, next to their other restaurant Barrel & Bones, in a shared 6,600 square-foot space. The same trio is the brains behind such local spots as Big Shots Sports Café and Ron’s Corner Tavern.
This two-month-old eatery’s dedication to New Orleans-style seafood is such that twice a day, five days a week, seafood trucks – mostly from Louisiana’s Fruge Seafood Company – arrive brimming with shrimp, crawfish, redfish, and the real prize, Gulf and Blue Point oysters.
Gold fleur-de-lis are engraved on Bourbon Street’s front door, and its interior is filled with symbols of good-natured Mardi Gras bawdiness: Hundreds of beaded necklaces hang from the ceiling, and authentic New Orleans gas-fed street lamps illuminate signs for the Vieux Carre. While skeletons leer from corners, the walls are filled with signs emblazoned with sassy slogans like, “Today’s Menu: Take it or leave it.”
If the Mardi Gras revelry stopped with the restaurant’s décor, it would be quite a hollow dining experience. Fortunately, Bourbon Street’s kitchen, under the leadership of culinary director Eric O’Connor, produces a focused number of dishes that place an admirable emphasis on New Orleans-Cajun authenticity, if occasionally falling prey to timid seasoning.
Certainly a must-eat item on the menu was the oysters, from the familiar raw and baked varieties to the restaurant’s specialty: char-grilled oysters.
Oysters are going to be costly at any “market price,” but these were so tasty that I didn’t blanche at their basic price of $8.99 plus a $4 surcharge for a half-dozen.
It’s not easy to work with these sensitive bivalves, especially considering the kitchen exposes them to a blazing-hot grill while trying to keep that freshly shucked oyster chew. Bourbon Street’s kitchen succeeded, as my half-dozen Gulf variety wore a tasty coat of garlic-butter, herbs, and melted Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheeses. Despite all these bit players competing for my palate’s attention, the oyster, with its slurp-worthy “oyster liquor,” retained star billing.
On this brisk night, a cup of chicken andouille gumbo felt appropriate. And while the gumbo couldn’t compete with the sophisticated pleasures of the char-grilled oysters, it defied the laws of culinary physics by cramming a great deal of spicy sausage and lemon butter-infused rice into the cup’s miniscule circumference.
Of the two mains I sampled, the shrimp etouffee outshone the fried crawfish tails. The etouffee was a master class in the wonders of a perfectly executed dark roux. This base congregated with the holy trinity of New Orleans cooking (celery, green pepper, and onion), a blend of chicken and shrimp stock, and a who’s who of Cajun and Creole spices such as Cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic, and ground thyme. The end result formed a sauce for which the term “lusty” was invented.
As perfectly fried as the buttermilk-dipped crawfish tails were, they were undone by a banal scattering of French fries and seriously under-dressed cabbage slaw. And its accompanying sauces, save for a zesty horseradish-spiked cocktail sauce, suffered from a serious case of the blahs. But like that unruly uncle who gooses a dull family dinner, the dish was rescued by several sinus-clearing Tabasco peppers.
Forgetting that the delightful bananas Foster ice cream cake was imported from Buffalo, New York’s Rich Products, it arrived to the table as a two-inch-high offspring of a New York-style cheesecake and a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake. Though not a dessert person, I couldn’t keep my spoon from continuously diving into this sweet finale.
It’s likely that Bourbon Street’s unabashed devotion to the partay vibe of the original Bourbon Street, matched by the kitchen’s obsessive desire to produce authentic New Orleans dishes, might finally create a long-term resident in a Fort Worth space that has disposed of prior tenants like so many crawfish tails at a beachside boil.
Bourbon Street Oyster Bar & Grill
Char-grilled oysters $8.99
(plus $4 for a half-dozen)
Chicken andouille gumbo $4 (a cup)
Shrimp etouffee $14
Fried crawfish tails $13
Bananas Foster ice cream cake $8