Adventures on the half shell

Photo by Collin Richie

Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar brings a unique element to the Capital City

In oyster country, it makes perfect sense to offer not only the regional favorite, but also a variety of oysters from the East and West coasts. At least, that’s what the team behind downtown Baton Rouge’s new Jolie Pearl believes.

“We wanted to do one thing—oysters—and do it really well,” says developer Derek Fitch, part of a group of investors that includes businessmen Scott Emonet, Dana Brown, Trent Wilson, Capital City Grill and Stroube’s restaurateur Rick Volland, and Eric Carnegie, who has run operations for Volland.

Alongside the versatile and affordable Gulf oyster, Jolie Pearl features West Coast varieties like the fruity Naked Roy oyster from Samish Bay in the northern Puget Sound, and the Chefs Creek oyster, a creamy and well-rounded oyster from Vancouver Island. From the Eastern Seaboard, look for the popular Naked Cowboy, a firm bivalve with good minerality from the Long Island Sound, and the James River oyster from a traditional oystering area in the southern Chesapeake Bay.

Harvested from colder waters, these oysters don’t carry the threat of bacteria in warmer months that Gulf oysters do, and they can be enjoyed on the half shell year-round. Their nuanced flavors are impacted by the highly variable coastal conditions in which they’re grown.

“Oysters have their own terroir,” says Fitch. “And it’s a lot of fun for oyster fans to have access to ones from around the country.”

Carnegie designed Jolie Pearl’s menu to be both straightforward and playful. Oysters on the half shell can be enhanced with cold toppings like grapefruit lemon granita or cucumber mignonette—clean accompaniments that highlight, but won’t overpower delicate flavors. But, Jolie Pearl also offers hefty baked oysters, including shameless Rockefeller and Bienville, as well as a muffaletta-inspired formula and one with corn maque choux.

A “grill cam” over the bar reveals oysters as they’re fired up on a char-griller and gilded with traditional butter, herbs and Romano cheese—or with Jolie Pearl’s own brie and bacon or blue cheese.

The new spot occupies two storefronts overlooking North Boulevard and the downtown square. With classic south Louisiana architectural touches like beaded board and pressed tin ceilings, it feels both modern and rustic. The team says they’ve tried to incorporate memorable and interactive features, including a visible shucking station, an absinthe vessel, locked liquor cabinets for regulars and a record player. Bring your own LP, says Carnegie, and when the needle stops, remind the bartender to flip it over.

Jolie Pearl opened in late October and has been attracting both local food lovers and a growing number of hotel guests in the area. Fitch, a downtown developer, believes the timing is right for the bar restaurant.

“Things have changed so much in downtown over the last several years,” he says. “This really is the place to be.”

Find out more about Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar at jolieoysterbar.com.

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