S&J Oyster Co.: New owners keep eatery close as possible to the original
BY SCOTT CHERRY World Restaurant Critic
Thursday, November 08, 2012
3/28/13 at 8:02 AM
From the small black-and-white floor tiles to the shiny black wall tiles, glass block accents, mirrored walls and wall clocks, the new S&J Oyster Co. has the feel of its predecessors.
"We've worked hard to get it all dialed in right," said co-owner Bill Parkey, whose father was a former business partner of Howard Smith, who founded S&J in 1983 (the last one closed in '04). "We probably have a dozen former S&J employees working here."
Co-owner Michael Denson, who worked at all four of the former S&J Seafood Cafe & Oyster Bar locations - Kansas City, Fayetteville, south Tulsa and Brookside - said a few items came from the old locations.
"The green clock came from the Kansas City restaurant, which closed in '89, and the clock on the other wall came from the Peoria (Avenue) location," Denson said. "This place is as close to the 33rd and Peoria building as we could get.
"The menu is exactly the same as the original one when Howard first opened. Some purveyors have changed, and some of the exact ingredients aren't available anymore, but we have worked to make it as close as possible to the original."
We went by recently for an early evening dinner and just barely got in ahead of a room-filling crowd.
While we contemplated our entree selections, we shared an appetizer of oysters Rockefeller ($9.95) and cups of gumbo ($4.95) and New England clam chowder ($4.95).
The Rockefeller featured six big oysters on the half shell sitting in a pan of rock salt and topped with spinach and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. The dish had been briefly baked or broiled, and the oysters still were nearly raw. This was a yummy way to get things started.
The chowder was rich, creamy and thick with little bits of clams floating in the broth, and the mild gumbo had some baby shrimp, okra, rice, tomato and mushrooms floating in a soupy, thin roux.
My wife never could resist the shrimp Louie salad at the old S&J's, and this trip was no different. The huge salad ($8.95) had a mound of baby shrimp and tomato wedges over mixed greens and was served with a house-made Louie dressing that tasted much like a tangy Thousand Island.
All of the fried items were calling my name, but I resisted and went for the etouffee ($8.95) with a side of red beans and rice ($2.50).
The etouffee, a stew of shrimp and veggies in a brown roux and served over a large plate of rice, was mildly seasoned, as was the bowl of red beans and rice, which had a touch of Andouille sausage in the mix.
I noticed a number of neighboring diners reaching for the bottles of "extra hot" horseradish and Louisiana Hot Sauce to spice up their dishes.
The beverage list includes nine wines (four whites, four reds and a blush), a good selection of beers and specialty cocktails, though prices of the latter were not printed on the menu.
In addition to the bar area and two dining spaces on the ground floor, the restaurant also has upstairs seating for 20 that may be reserved for private functions.
Our server, Sam, was friendly and efficient. Chris Stevens, a 10-year employee of the former S&J, is back as general manager.
"Once things settle down, we will start looking forward to Mardi Gras," he said.
S&J OYSTER CO.
308 E. First St.
(on a scale of 0 to 4 stars)
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week;
accepts all major credit cards.
Original Print Headline: Original flavor
Scott Cherry 918-581-8463
Calamari is breaded and fried and served with cocktail sauce. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
The new S&J Oyster Co. is located on First Street between Detroit and Elgin avenues. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Gulf oysters on the half shell are the main attraction at S&J Oyster Co. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World