Half Shell

It was the first day of fall in southern Mississippi and still in the balmy 90s. After our usual group texting to make sure everyone was available, the Food with Friends had once again assembled to do our favorite thing – enjoy each other’s company over delicious food.

For this month’s magical episode, we had to take our dear sweet Allison Neville across highway 59 out to West Hattiesburg, but we assured her it was worth it as we were travelling to Half Shell Oyster House.

This Hattiesburg establishment has had people traveling to west Hattiesburg since 2012 for their delicious selection of seafood that does not disappoint. I feel like I have to once again mention as a disclaimer, I am not a seafood lover. Some of the seafood tasting opinions are second hand accounts from my Food with Friends crew. However, I assure you that they are all positive, as Half Shell showed us a great time and a great assortment of what they have to offer.

The Friends and our trusty photographer, Rob Walker, were greeted by general manager Jessie Holmes, who started as a server seven years ago and has worked her way up to her current position. She let us know that soon Half Shell would be coming out with an updated menu and suggested some items for us to order.

We perused the menu and decided to start with cocktails, of course. Jamie ordered a Blackberry Margarita with sugar rim, which tasted as beautiful as it looked. We also ordered a Pink Pearl Martini, which was light and sweet and went great with our appetizers. Our cameraman Rob decided to sample their amazing bourbon selection and went with a Blanton’s select on the rocks (with a splash of water to help it open up). Any bourbon fan in the Hattiesburg area should try out their selection as they have some brands that are not commonly found locally. I ordered an old fashioned, since Rob started with bourbon as well, and it went perfectly with our first course of appetizers.

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

We were brought a great selection of appetizers. First, an Oyster Sampler, which covers oysters in the styles of Rockefeller, Orleans, Bienville and Charbroiled. I don’t think the sampler lasted more than 3 minutes at our table. I’m usually afraid of oysters, but tried one Rockefeller style and was pleasantly surprised. Everyone raved about the Orleans and Bienville oysters. The appetizer would be great for a family of picky eaters that like options.

We were then brought a pound of Royal Reds, large and succulent shrimp that taste like lobster meat and another dish that quickly disappeared with our group. These were followed by an order of fried green tomatoes and crab cakes, which were perfectly fried and topped with crab. This was my favorite as there was a non-seafood option nestled in with the crab cakes. And if that wasn’t enough, we also sampled their chargrilled crab claws which were buttery perfection – another dish to quickly disappear.

And Now, For the Main Course

After we made quick work of our appetizers, it was time to order our entrees. Jessie was great about answering any questions we had regarding the menu. With her insight and suggestions, we made our final decisions. Evan ordered the Redfish Orleans, which was tender and juicy, and not very flaky at all. In a buttery Cajun sauce, it had just enough spice, nothing too overwhelming, but also not for the faint of heart. As someone who doesn’t like the flakiness of fish, this filet was tempting and delicious. Evan shared a bite with me and the leftovers came home with me for my boyfriend to gleefully eat later that evening.

Allison selected the Seafood Pot Pie, which includes Gulf shrimp, crabmeat and crawfish, with peas, carrots and corn in a flaky crust, served in a small casserole. Although it may not translate well in pictures, since it is inside a pie crust, this delicious dish is Allison’s favorite. The crust is perfect and goes great with the seafood and vegetable medley inside.

Jamie went with the suggested Big Easy Surf and Turf with broccoli and their sweet potato brulee. The turf of the dish being an 8-ounce filet, the surf being the blue crab cake it sits on top of and also the lump crabmeat on top of the filet. Jamie may have been the winner of the night, as his steak was perfectly cooked and sandwiched between delicious crab.

I ordered the 8-ounce filet with gorgonzola asparagus and sweet potato brulee on the side. The filet was ridiculously tender. After trying all the seafood appetizers, it was nice to go back to some red meat, and this did not disappoint. All Half Shell’s sides were enjoyed as well; Evan’s favorite being the gumbo that tastes just like your mom made it. The sweet potato brulee is not to be missed, though. It’s basically an excuse to start early with dessert as it’s mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and the perfect scoop of butter on top. Mix it all up and you’re in sweet potato heaven.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

When it came down to the actual desserts, we couldn’t decide as all of their options sounded delicious. Jessie and her staff did us a huge favor and brought us all of them so we could give them a try. Allison ordered the bread pudding with a glass of milk on the side, which went perfectly together since it was so rich. Evan went with the Key Lime Pie, a favorite of his which did not disappoint. Tangy and sweet, it was difficult not to steal it away from him. Jamie got the Chocolate Obsession, which was exactly that, rich chocolate decadence that left a lasting impression. This is definitely for the chocolate lover we all know. I claimed the Bananas Foster Cheesecake, which tasted just like my great grandmother’s banana pudding, but in a convenient cheesecake slice shape. Topped with their spiced rum sauce, it went great with my Angel’s Envy I ordered for the final course.

Jamie echoed my sentiments regarding the entire evening.

“The oysters were outstanding. The Pink Pearl was one of the best drinks I’ve had out of all of our experiences,” he said. “And my steak was amazing, cooked to perfection, with crab meat on top.”

Our experience with Half Shell was wonderful, thanks to Jessie and her crew.  I look forward to trying more of their delicious offerings of food, bourbon and good times.