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Commander’s Palace chef sets out in search of perfect oyster

Commander’s Palace executive chef Tory McPhail set out in July to find the best oyster restaurants along the Gulf Coast. Here are the renowned chef’s daily notes from that 11-day quest for the world’s best bivalves.

Grilled Oysters


Day 1

  • I’m hitting every beach between here and St. Petersburg FL. – I’ll keep u posted on FB and Twitter – daily posts- best joints!!
  • First night of oyster & beach bar tour reveals NO OYSTERS in Grand Isle, LA. Great Back deck at Arties Sports Bar. Hwy 1 Grand Isle, LA
  • Into the Mississippi back woods now – we’ll see if all the rumors are really true
  • I just happen to roll up on a Crab Festival in Bay St. Louis, MS, very interesting crowd of locals eating and drinking while listening to some good country music. Tons of great local seafood….no oysters.
  • I’m @ Shaggy’s here in Pass Christian, MS – very cool, very hip Beach bar with Great Salty Oysters. Served on old round aluminum pizza pans with a little crushed ice, lemon, horseradish, cocktail sauce and crackers – Jimmy Buffet rolling on the juke box upstairs and live band downstairs – you have got to check this joint out – it’s packed.
  • People are building huge piles of fire wood 15′ high & 10′ wide at the base- Mississippi beach tradition of Beach Bon Fires on the 4th=cool
  • I’m @ Steve’s Marina Restaurant– Standard seafood restaurant that caters to families with a beautiful view. It’s right on the harbor and seeing an amazing sunset.
  • @ the Half Shell Oyster House in Gulf Port, MS – this is a first class oyster restaurant with black linen table clothes crowned with white parchment. 40 wines -21 by the glass. Sophisticated beachy feel – the place is slam packed busy- kitchen is rolling and quiet. Tall ceilings and old exposed brick makes for a rustic yet comfortable feel. WOW- Nola style BBQ’d oysters are the best grilled oysters I’ve ever had! Amazing! Spicy garlic and Parmesan oysters right off the grill

Day 2

  • Had Blackened Cobia sandwich at Harbor Docks in Destin, FL- now across the street. @Hogsbreath eating oysters
  • Ice cold Coronas @ Harry T’s bar on the harbor in Destin. Place is packed and countless 100k boats floating by. Beautiful day on the beach!
  • At a new place, but the food here blows! Cool-typical beers & breathtaking views, cocktails are sketchy. Come to check it out but just until the sun sets.

Day 3

  • Stayed in Destin today and just relaxed on Crab Island with the Yamaha. Chilling at the bar @ Hogs Breath. Heading scalloping tomorrow
  • Had a blast so far – heading down the beach to Apalachicola, FL tomorrow – we’ll be scalloping with snorkel gear and eating them raw out of the shell with crushed citrus and butter knives

Day 4

  • Heading East again through Sandestin and down Hwy. 30-A
  • Seaside, Grayton Beach, & Water Color!! I love this part of Florida! On to Panama City next.
  • Rolling past Bonita Bay toward Mexico Beach & Port St. Joe- waters perfectly smooth and glassy – wish I would have brought the wake board.

Day 5

  • Life’s better when you have to tie your wet swim suits to the roll cage on the jeep as you travel from beach to beach to dry them off!!!
  • Made my way to the legendary oyster town of Apalachicola, FL tonight. Sitting at Boss Oyster Bar next to the River Inn where I’m staying tonight
  • Hangin’ out with the locals in the River Inn Lounge… Who knew that karaoke was such a popular south Florida past time….

Day 6

  • The oyster eating tour rolls east as I’m leaving Apalachicola toward St. Georges Island. Just had a light lunch at Owl Cafe in Apalachicola and headed to check out St. Georges Island as I continue east down the beach! Oysters last night at The Boss were crazy salty –
  • You’ve got to come check out St. Georges Island!!!! Aside from newer cars… The pace of life has instantly spun backward 40 years. After the main paved streets, 1/2 of the island has been dusty dirty and powdery sand roads. There are quaint little beach side cottages with island names like “breathe easy” and “rest my case”. I’m at the Blue Parrot for a tiki hut beer as puffy clouds and soft waves gently roll by.
  • Relaxin’ at Eddy Teach’s Bar in St. George Island=Open air island joint with cold beer, rock & roll, & graffiti on the wooden walls=Awesome. I’m a Corona and a dz. oysters in.
  • Just jumped out of Wakulla Springs -it’s 70 degrees and crystal clear that pushes enough water to start its own river that flows to the Gulf of Mexico! Heading SE now making the big bend toward Tampa, FL.
  • Made my way to Clearwater FL. Sitting @ Lana’s Friendly Tavern on the beach. They have Apalachicola oysters too. They’re more golden in color. This batch has a minerally, metallic, and sea water flavor with soft and creamy texture. Big up front taste that gives way to a smooth finish
  • Relaxing @ Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill having a cold one – pouring rain all day-might as well check out the local flavor of life. Frenchy’s is a hip beach bar with cool bar tenders wearing tank tops and cut off denim shorts, lots of tie dye & hand painted walls

Day 7

  • Saw a fantastic show at Skippers in N. Tampa last night- Eric Lindell ripped the Louisiana Blues from 8-12. More road sodas and oysters.
  • Kills me to see small independent operators use Asian shrimp while located right on the gulf-they could charge more & have>flavor = 2 bad!!!!
  • Checked into a Suite in the Bilmar beach resort in St. Pete = 2 kinds of roasted oysters at The Pub in Indian Shores. I’m staying a few extra days in St. Petersburg, FL while my jeep gets worked on. Fantastic little hotel with 160 suites and rooms with cool pool and walk up beach bars. Sloppy Joesof Key West has an outpost here that will get explored shortly- beachy rum cocktails are in order.
  • It’s interesting talking to the locals and getting their perspective on oysters. People can be VERY stern with their views!
  • Afternoon cocktails @ Sloppy Joes then across the street to locals spot called Ricky T’s– everyone’s very cool & would fit in perfect in NOLA.

Day 8

  • One of the coolest spots has been my most southerly point @ Pass-au-grille, and St. Pete beach. Reminds me of key west and Cali combined.
  • The sign of a good local bar begins with 10 Harley’s on the curb. Shadracks Tavern takes top honors! Police might even be a little nervous. Shadracks Tavern’s idea of a cocktail is a shot of tequila poured over ice cube, swirled an poured off.
  • By far the coolest beach bar is the Undertow! All bartenders are in bikinis and Pink Floyd is blasting on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. Undertow has a “lazy river” formed into top of the bar so bartenders make shots & float them to you. Undertow reveals “Beach wine bar” pouring Silver Oak, Dariouch, Cakebread, and Tattinger all the while in bikinis and sunscreen!
  • A 200 person drum circle on the beach Sunday afternoons- past sunset- people are pouring out of hotels/cars to join in. Better than #Bonnaroo #Wanee -no beers on beach though.

Day 9

  • Heat index is reading 95 degrees today on the beach – last day for piña rum yum yums before the big drive back
  • The coolest Beach bar yet – the Undertow has a lazy river built into the top of a huge rectangular bar so when you order shots- the bartenders float them to you. The back bar reveals a high end Beach Wine bar pouring Darioush, Silver Oak Cab, Tattinger, Firesteed & Brunello – that have 8 under counter refrigerated glass wine cabinets packed full of high end juice — I’ve never seen this before !

Day 10

Day 11

  • The sun is setting on the Beach Bar & Oyster Tour of 2011- Undertow of St. Pete & Eddy Teach’s of St. George Island are tops


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