Pearl Oyster Bar

We have all had fantasies about finding that little fish shack in New England. It doesn't look like much, and you have to bring your own paper towels, but you have never tasted fried fish, fresh oysters and lobster rolls like theirs before. Of course, the reality is often disillusioning. The great little seafood shack was a rarity in the best of times, and is even rarer today.

Despite this, do not give up hope. Head on down to the Village and check out the Pearl Oyster Bar on Cornelia Street. It is no longer the little place it once was, before it doubled in size by taking over the space next door, but it is still the perfect urban fish shack. The owner spent certain formative years on Cape Cod, before it turned into a suburb, and wanted to recreate one of the few glories of New England cuisine.

In this, she has succeeded.

The two best dishes are the lobster roll, with rich chunks of lobster, and the fried oyster roll, which is the Yankee version of the New Orleans peace maker. Not very long ago, lobster in New England was poor people's food, even as it was a luxury elsewhere. Check out a copy of Mystic Pizza. Too often it is served in mingy portions and way too gussied up for such an elemental flavor. Pearl Oyster Bar does it right, with lots of lobster meat, tail and claw, and turns it into an exquisite sandwich loaded with tartar sauce. The oyster roll is just as good, with hearty fried oysters, crunchy on the soft bread roll.

There are other goodies as well. We have yet to find a dish less than wonderful, and we have tried and enjoyed the salt cooked shrimp, the wonderful caesar salad, the smoked salmon on johnnycake, and their perfectly done shoe string fries.

If you want an elegant seafood meal, check out rm. If you want an informal taste of New England at its best, drop by the Pearl Oyster Bar. Now that they have expanded, it is much easier to get a seat for lunch of for dinner. It is much easier than searching Cape Cod.

UPDATE (11/05/04): We should have noted this earlier, but Pearl Oyster Bar has grown. The store next door has been added as a new dining area, so you no longer have to wait outside right before noon to get a seat at the bar. The food is as good as ever.

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