While Raleigh may be a bit land-locked in the center of the state, thankfully great seafood is only a couple of hours away at the coast. And in the past two years we’ve seen the addition of great seafood restaurants like Saint James out in Durham along with Cortez Seafood in Raleigh. One restaurant that had slipped past my food radar screen was St. Roch (pronounced “saint rock”) out on Wilmington Street. It’s funny because I never ate much at this location given the previous tenant (Joule) and that just continued on as it transformed into St. Roch. But eventually I decided it was time to see what this eatery was doing for seafood in the Oak City!
The first thing you’ll notice about St. Roch is the unique entryway: white tile floor, long, glass display windows to either side that give away its origins as an old men’s clothing store. Out front, St Roch exudes an early 20th century art deco feel but inside, it all gets hip! St. Roch’s dining room is a great looking place with a long bar to the right (perfect for slurping oysters), leather button-tufted booths down the middle and little two-tops to the side.
A white metal stamped ceiling and stainless steel lamps hanging overhead give the space a great evening ambiance that’s dark and sultry. Some chalkboard menus behind the bar show off the daily specials along with the raw oysters available. If you’re feeling a bit daring, grab one of the little tables that sit in a glassed-in showcase area at the front of the restaurant! You’ll get a great view of people passing by but of course, they’ll get a great view of your meal…
The staff at St. Roch is young, hip and they know the menu very well. I’d recommend starting with a plate of fresh oysters on the half-shell. Here at St. Roch, they are served with cocktail sauce, mignonette (red wine vinegar-shallots-pepper), jalapenos and fried saltines, yum! Putting a plump bivalve on that saltine with a dollop of cocktail sauce seems like a classic way to go. Take advantage of dollar oyster Tuesday’s if you want to save some money!
For the rest of the menu, I’ve tried an fried oyster poboy which literally had oysters spilling out of the roll. Perfectly fried plump oysters served with remoulade, lettuce and chives, a great sandwich. The crab St. Roch is a chilled mix of crab, shrimp, and egg (seafood dip) served with those fried saltines again. And the fries at St. Roch are excellent, served skin-on with aioli and ketchup.
Over the course of several visits at St. Roch, I got the feel the St. Roch has a bunch of regulars here given its innocuous and slightly hidden space. And it’s earned that loyal following by dishing out great seafood prepared as a homage to the Big Easy. While it’s certainly not inexpensive, good seafood rarely is and St. Roch is serving up very good seafood with a touch of New Orleans. Offering up brunch, dinner and now lunch, you’ve got a lot of options to try out this great seafood eatery out on Wilmington Street!
St. Roch Fine Oysters and Bar
223 S Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27601