“Y’all been here before?” the woman behind the register asked.
Nope. She was being nice. We were looking around in confusion and hunger trying to figure the place out while eyeing the plates of oysters and shrimp in front of the other patrons. Clearly, this was our first time. We were lost and drooling and overwhelmed. There was a lot to take in — the very short menu board, the beer cooler in the back, the sagging tables topped with oysters and shrimp and packages of saltines.
“Well, the menu’s up there,” she gestured behind the bar where the menu hung from the wall. “Sit wherever you like. Let us know what you want when you’re ready. Beer in the back is self-serve.” That was the briefing. That was everything.
We’d need a minute. Did she say self-serve beer? That would require investigation.
On the menu, raw oysters were $8.95. Buy how many? Not sure. We’d have to ask.
“How much shrimp is in the serving?” Lisa asked.
“And the oysters?” I asked.
No shit. $9 a dozen. I needed a beer to steady my newly weakened knees.
“We do half orders too,” the woman added.
Lisa wavered. I ordered a 1/2 dozen oysters and a cheeseburger. Paradise, indeed. Lisa tried to order a cheeseburger, but was talked into a 1/2 pound of shrimp.
It was time for beer. Lisa perused the bottle selection (it was as big as the beer selection in Panamint Springs). I poured myself a draft Amber Bock. Well, I poured a bunch of head into a glass and decided to let it settle out for a bit. Tap beer is self-serve here too.
“This yours?” one of the gents behind the counter asked, pointing to my beer.
I said it was.
“Let me help you with that,” he said and poured it out. “With this one, you’ve got to pour a little out first and clear the foam. Then you can fill it right up.” He turned the tap on for a second, the foam poured out, when it turned to pure beer he slid the cup under the stream. “There you go.”
“Thank you, sir.”
We picked a table and took in the scene while waiting for our food. A man drove up carrying a baby in his lap and driving a golf cart. He went to the back for a beer, paid, and joined the group on the porch. Another guy drove up in a tractor and grabbed a beer too. Nobody was at the register so he yelled over to the cook and left his money on the counter and went out to the porch. Amazing.
The shrimp arrived — a huge plate of it fresh from the gulf. It was even better than our attempt at a Charleston local shrimp boil — fresher tasting, but still full-bodied and earthy. Really good. Then my oysters arrived — 7 of them. One was a beast the size of my fist. A huge pile of horseradish was served alongside. I was in love with the place now. The oysters were also amazing (especially with a little horseradish and lemon and local hot sauce). The cheeseburger was a perfect follow-up to the light and fresh and salty oysters. It was an amazing feast.
We grabbed another round of beers (I cleared the foam successfully my second try) and decided to relax a bit. We didn’t want to leave.
This place deserves 4 Michelin stars; it’s the amp that goes to 11; it’s wonderful. Indian Pass Raw Bar has reset my seafood restaurant barometer. I love Fish Bar and Half Shell in Chicago, but I’m ready to move to the gulf coast of Florida to be able to eat here. It’s that good, and like a lot of things, you don’t realize how good it can be until you see it and experience it. Eat here if you can. It’s worth the drive.
The details: beers were $2 per (cheap!); my oysters were $4.50 for 7 (deal!). The burger was one of the best we’ve had. The self-serve beer is just wildly odd and wonderful. The porch scene is fantastic and I want to be a regular and join it (maybe on a tractor). And the experience took Lisa out of a funk into a wonderfully good mood. Phenomenal.