Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out...Featuring Half Shell Oyster House, Gulfport Mississippi #WGTravel #diningout #gulfport #gulfseafood

Sometimes during our travels we experience a restaurant meal that's so amazing that it deserves its very own breakout solo coverage. That's exactly the case for this month's The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out restaurant! I'll be sharing more about our quickie overnight stay in Gulfport, Mississippi, in the next week or so. But first? I simply must share our incredible dining experience at Half Shell Oyster House. This is one of the best seafood restaurants we've eaten at anywhere...from incredible cocktails and delicious entrees...and even a killer dessert. Half Shell Oyster House proves once again that you don't have to visit a large city to enjoy an incredible meal! During our travels for The Weekend Gourmet over the past eight years, some of our best bites have come while visiting smaller cities and towns.

We arrived at Half Shell Oyster House for dinner after a quick 78-mile drive from New Orleans. We were warmly greeted and quickly seated in the main dining room. The restaurant's decor has a definite French Quarter feel -- wrought iron, high ceilings, brick walls, classic lighting fixtures, stained glass...and even a copper barThe manager came by and helped us select a trio of cocktails to try...and let us know that the chef had selected a custom tasting from Half Shell's extensive seafood menu. I selected the fruity Blueberry Pomegranate Sangria, Michael had their signature Top "Shell" Margarita, and our social media assistant Bekah opted for the pomegranate-infused Pink Pearl Martini. All three cocktails were perfectly made and tasted amazing!
While we sipped our cocktails, a duo of appetizers appeared from the kitchen: an Oyster Sampler and warm Crab and Shrimp Dip. The oysters were charbroiled or baked and came in four flavors: Parmesan Garlic Butter; Bienville with an herb, mushroom, crab, Gulf shrimp, bacon, and bread crumb filling; classic Rockefeller with creamed spinach; and Orleans with a smoky, spicy Cajun sauce. 
Not a fan of raw oysters? We're not either...but definitely give charbroiled oysters a try. One bite and we were hooked! These babies were smoky and delicious...we couldn't pick a favorite, because they were all fantastic. The warm Crab and Shrimp Dip featured a creamy base with lots of seafood. The dip was topped with Parmesan and panko, then baked until crispy on top. It's served with slices of toasted French bread.
The warm dip spread on the French bread was a fabulous combination -- mildly spicy, with tons of fresh seafood in every bite. While our entrees were being prepared, we enjoyed a pair of Half Shell's signature soups: Seafood Gumbo and Crawfish, Crab and Corn Chowder. We each tried a little of both delicious soups. The gumbo featured the dark roux we love, along with a generous amount of sweet shrimp, crabmeat, and crawfish.
The mildly spicy chowder was creamy and sweet, with lots of sweet crawfish tails and crab...and just enough sweet corn kernels. Both of these hearty soups were excellent -- perfect for enjoying on a chilly evening. Our seafood dinner was off to a fabulous start! 

Next from the kitchen was a trio of entrees paired with delicious side dishes. We shared 3/4 pound of the Royal Red shrimp, Seafood au Gratin Snapper, and Big Easy Surf and Turf. The entrees were served with creamy Parmesan Risotto, decadent Cheddar Cheese Grits, and swoon-worthy Sweet Potato Creme Brulee with Honey Butter -- so good it could've been a dessert! Everything looked and smelled so amazing we weren't exactly sure where to start. We're shrimp lovers, so we quickly dove into the Cajun boiled peel-and-eat Royal Reds: very special shrimp harvested from the Gulf of Mexico's deepest waters.
We grew up on the Gulf Coast, about 30 minutes inland from we know good shrimp when we taste it. The Royal Reds are super sweet, with a texture similar to lobster. Dipped in butter? Seafood heaven!!! Our second entree was Seafood au Gratin Snapper. It featured a perfectly cooked fillet of bronzed snapper -- which is seared but not quite blackened. The snapper was topped with Gulf shrimp and lump crab. The dish was served with a lemony butter sauce. The end result: so dang good!
To show they also served an excellent steak, we tried the Big Easy Surf and Turf. This dish features a perfectly grilled, tender USDA Choice 6-ounce fillet served on top of a crab cake. Then? They top the fillet with a generous amount of lump crab, creamy Bearnaise sauce, and a drizzle of tangy balsamic glaze. This dish is totally decadent and delicious...very special indeed! 
We were feeling pretty stuffed by then...but the kitchen had one more sweet surprise in store for our dessert. Half Shell Oyster House's signature sweet is Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding. Cinnamon. Roll. Bread. Pudding. I'll pause while you contemplate that for a moment...
Cinnamon rolls, cranberries, and pecans combine for a perfect mixture of sweetness and warm spices...with a tart punch of flavor from the cranberries. The bread pudding is served warm with a killer spiced rum butter sauce. The three of us shared this dessert since we were quite full...but man, is this an AMAZING dessert. This bread pudding was the perfect ending to an unforgettable meal!

Half Shell Oyster House Gulfport is open for lunch and dinner daily. Their hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm...and they serve Sunday Brunch from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. The Half Shell's location is super convenient to Gulfport's beachfront hotels too. From our hotel -- Courtyard by Marriott -- the restaurant was a quick 5-minute drive! The Gulfport Half Shell opened in 2009 inside downtown Gulfport's historic Kremer building. Since then, they've grown to 11 other locations in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida...with a 12th location scheduled to open later this year. If you're a seafood lover planning a visit to Gulport in the near future? A seafood meal at The Half Shell Oyster House is a must-visit for your itinerary. You can thank me later!

Disclosure: The Half Shell Gulfport provided The Weekend Gourmet team a complimentary dinner tasting to facilitate this feature. All opinions stated are solely my own.  

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