Dan & Louis Oyster Bar
208 SW Ankeny
The oyster. People either love it or they hate it. The slithery, gelatinous texture; the salty, seawater taste; the cocktail sauce and horseradish to dress it. Personally, I love the oyster. It's raw and wet and completely unprocessed; the evidence is the barnacle-coated shell. Plus, oysters are a known aphrodisiac, and what could possibly be sexier than sucking oysters off the half shell in the company of your lover?
The Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, in the hectic pocket between Bar 71 and Berbati's, was established in 1907 by Louis Wachsmuth, and is still owned and operated by the same family. You can't say the same about the often-lauded Jake's Crawfish House, which part of the McCormick & Schmick's empire.
Anti-corporate sentiment aside, Dan and Louis serves up one spectacular oyster. I'd recommend trying the oysters on the half shell to anyone who steps through the door; and this even means people who say they "hate" oysters. My roommate--an extreme seafood skeptic--was, in a rapid change of heart, seen scrambling for seconds and thirds when we ordered the raw dozen.
The assortment of oysters on the shell offers you a fascinating array of bivalves--from the small, indigenously Japanese oyster to the huge, meaty Yaquina Bay oyster--each one offering a splendid interpretation of the fresh sea flavor. The Yaquina Bay oysters--served naked--are widely considered the most wholesome oyster in the Northwest; they're salty, sweet, and overwhelmingly fresh. But for me to try and describe each oyster flavor would be impossible, considering the hurried pace at which I was ingesting them. If you don't have anything specific in mind, this sampling of Northwest grown oysters is a thrilling tutorial. The excitement of different flavors and sizes added up to the most fabulous seafood experience I've ever had.
Besides the oysters, Dan & Louis offers an array of seafood dinners. The baked cod and halibut are both simple and fresh, and the fried seafood dinners offer the fat you love without masking the taste of the meat. Another mentionable is Dan & Louis salad dressing. They recently offered a marionberry vinaigrette that arrived blood red with berry seeds, which was tangy and delicious. The effort they put into their salad dressing shows that just because Dan & Louis has the best oysters around, it doesn't mean they're willing to skimp elsewhere. I can cite the expertly crafted Spanish coffee I drank as further proof.
The nautical theme of Dan & Louis dining room could be discouraging to some. At first I felt like the surroundings were too casual considering the amount of dough I was about to throw down. But this is a family owned restaurant, free from pretension. The waitstaff is ready and willing to explain, and the old school Portland photos offer a healthy dose of nostalgia. And if you crave more glamour, eat your oysters in their fancy bar. After all, it is the Dan & Louis Oyster Bar, and in my experience oysters plus cocktails make for one crazy night.