REVIEW: Gary’s Down East Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar – Arapahoe
Eating local is all the rage these days. Many restaurants have forced their menu to be created with ingredients located within a certain mile radius of the restaurant. It is awesome because it helps strengthen the local economy and opens up people’s eyes to all of the great food that is produced or grown around them. Gary’s Down East Seafood & Oyster Bar definitely has local on its mind but it isn’t worried about getting everything on its menu local as long as it gets the most important: seafood.
The building is split up into three different sections. The first is the restaurant which feels like you are in the cabin of an old-school ship. It has mounted billfish, fisherman’s netting and other knick knacks covering the walls to give it a great atmosphere. The second is a take-out window for locals to pick up food which I guess tend to be more along the lines of burgers and sandwiches as opposed to seafood because take-out seafood just isn’t as good when you get it to-go. The third section is the oyster bar which has a horseshoe shaped bar and a few tall bar tables on the side.
Gary’s starts each table off with a basket of freshly cooked hush puppies as you order your drinks and think about what you are going to be having. They have a pretty good selection of beer (St. Pauli’s, Negro Modelo, although they don’t have any microbrews. I didn’t check out their wine selection but I am guessing it is average but nothing really fancy.
My folks started out with a salad while my brother and I ordered soups. My brother got a bowl of the she-crab soup and I got a sourdough bread bowl with the clam chowder. The chowder was very hearty with chunky potatoes, bacon and thick clam chunks covered with green onions. The bread bowl was great but it didn’t hold as much as their regular soup bowl. It was definitely filling. Gary also had a fish stew on the menu which he recommended and I will try next time. It looked delicious when I saw it being served to a table next to mine.
We got a dozen raw oysters on the half shell. Gary serves local Pamlico County oysters which have about a 20% salinity level. They aren’t the biggest or the cleanest oysters in the world but they deliver an awesome taste nonetheless.
After the oysters on the half shell, we ordered a bushel of steamed oysters, half the bushel steamed light (above) & half the bushel steamed medium(below), and they were great. If I had a choice, I would eat them all raw because that is how I think an oyster should be eaten. However, the steamed oysters were fantastic. The added firmness didn’t take away too much taste and made it a lot less difficult to drop the oyster in the spicy cocktail sauce.
The cocktail sauce is a special blend made in house at Gary’s that adds a little extra kick to seafood. I am not one to load hot sauce all over my meal but the added heat to the cocktail sauce gives it that necessary tang for oysters. They also have regular cocktail sauce if you aren’t feeling adventurous.
We ended up getting a pound of peel ‘n’ eat shrimp, too. The shrimp, just like the oysters, were local and tasty. My parents can’t eat anything spicy so we opted out of the recommended spiced shrimp but the regular shrimp were still delicious. You get about 18-24 shrimp per pound for $18.95. The Styrofoam plate was a little off-putting but they had a busy night and we ordered at the tail end so they may have run out of bowls with as many people as were eating that night.
We finished up the night with another bushel of oysters. It could eat shrimp and oysters all day and probably never fill up. My brother and I went back and forth eating the last bushel via Roosters (Saltine, a mound of horseradish, jalapeno, Tabasco, oyster and cocktail sauce). There are variations of the Rooster but we made do with what we had and finished the rest of the bushel only to be completely full.
Gary’s is right down the road from Camp Sea Gull & Camp Seafarer which are two of the eastern seaboard’s best sailing camps for children and young adults. I have had a lot of friends who went to camp there and they all know and love Gary’s. It is an institution down in Arapahoe and just a short drive from the Minnesott Beach ferry.
If you are in the area, you should definitely take a trip down to Gary’s if you are in the area. Tell ’em Eat It, North Carolina (dot) com sent you.