When it comes to seafood, things are looking up in Raleigh! With the recent addition of Cape Fear Seafood Company at Cameron Village, we now have several great places like Cortez Seafood and St. Roch to get your seafood on. One other option you may have overlooked is Locals Oyster Bar, part of Locals Seafood Company. While Locals Seafood focuses on the retail sales side, the Locals Oyster Bar part of their business gives you a dine-in option at both the popular Transfer Co Food Hall and Durham Food Hall! Most of my dining experience has been at their Raleigh location, here’s what to expect when you visit!
Inside the busy and popular Transfer Co. Food Hall, you’ll find Locals Oyster Bar in the southern end of the space, across from Benchwarmers and near the patio. While the majority of Transfer Co’s seating is communal and shared, Locals Oyster Bar offers a more private dining option with individual tables and seating, just for the restaurant. In traditional oyster bar fashion there is stool seating along the counter and a handful of 4-tops deeper inside. The feel is industrial: concrete floors and brick but with some interesting, white lighting above. While the noise from the food hall keeps things from being really romantic at Locals Oyster Bar, the space does take on a different feel in the evening.
If you’re wondering who the culinary talent is behind the Locals Oyster Bar, it’s Chef Eric Montagne who has cooked at the Boiler Room in Kinston along with the old Standard Foods in Raleigh. Usually Oysters Local Bar has a small menu hung up behind the counter along with a paper menu up front at the order area. Note, that there may be a slightly different menu at night and during busier time periods when they will have more entrees and specials. One challenge I’ve had at Locals is their service style and menu changing from time to time and being unaware of how exactly to order, so ask questions up front. Currently, beer served at the main Transfer Co Food Hall bar can not be brought into the Locals Oyster Bar area and vice-versa. A more recent beverage change that confused me during my last visit. The menu consists of mostly smaller plates, appetizers and sandwiches along with beer and wine.
Once you figured out the details of how to order, you can focus on the food and it is VERY good. Prices are decent given the more casual counter order set up and of course, I’d recommend oysters on the half-shell! Usually they’ve got a local NC oyster option and the bivalves are served up with mignonette, cocktail sauce, horseradish and lemon. These oysters are SUPER fresh as you’d imagine and you can also do oyster kits (oysters, ice, accoutrements) if you’re willing to shuck them yourselves at home. I’d also recommend the spicy peel n eat shrimp, served up cold and with some butter. Two great seafood starters to share before your main meal!
Some favorite dishes that I’ve tried at Locals Oyster Bar is their fried fish collars with hot honey along with fried oyster poutine! The fried fish collars have a lumpy and bumpy coating covering tender, white fish with some bone. A quick drizzle of spicy honey and tangy pickles on the side make for an interesting appetizer! And the fried oyster poutine is a wicked concoction of skin-on fries, gravy and plump, freshly fried oysters! It’s not currently on the menu but hopefully it will be back in the fall time. A more recent meal showed off a fantastic crab roll stuffed with tons of fresh crab meat and topped with fragrant dill. I added some hushpuppies with honey butter on the side, making for a perfect summer meal.
Overall I like what Locals Oyster Bar is consistently delivering: fresh, well-prepared seafood at a decent price. I trust Chef Eric’s skills in the kitchen, I have yet to be disappointed over 5 to 6 visits. And while it’s certainly not cheap, it’s reasonably affordable compared to other seafood options in the area. I like that they can keep things simple with fried seafood or push harder with fancier preparation of their fish. And certainly, you can’t get much fresher than dealing with a restaurant who offers seafood in a retail setting. So rock on, Locals Oyster Bar! While the service may be quirky at times, love your food and casual environs. Seafood doesn’t have to be served up fancy when it’s as fresh and good as what Locals offers.
500 E. Davie Street
Raleigh, NC 27601