The Christiane Chronicles: I don’t need a million menus

Plus, Southern oysters are finally getting the attention they deserve
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Illustration by Zohar Lazar
Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Rant
Menu Mayhem
I can get over menu misspellings and pretentious cliches, but what’s starting to irk me are the restaurants that distribute separate sheets for everything. Cocktails, food, daily specials—I’m running out of hands and table space to juggle them. And servers, if I’m still shuffling papers, don’t waltz up to ask if I’m ready to order. One exception: wine lists. Most restaurants hand out just one, but a table of four deserves at least two to share, so we can all decide on a bottle together without having to read upside-down or pass it around. Verbally recited menus are, of course, the worst. I’m there to eat dinner, not play a game of Memory. And althoughit’s been an eternity since I last saw a ladies-only menu without prices, I’ve noticed an annoying resurgence of cocktail menus that don’t list the drinks’ tabs. Let’s put a cork in that, shall we?

Kimball House Oysters Top: Point Aux Pins, Grand Bay, Alabama Middle: Murder Point, Sandy Bay, Alabama Bottom: Isle Dauphine, Mississippi Sound, Alabama
Kimball House Oysters
Top: Point Aux Pins, Grand Bay, Alabama
Middle: Murder Point, Sandy Bay, Alabama
Bottom: Isle Dauphine, Mississippi Sound, Alabama

Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore

Rave
Southern Oysters
Up until a few years ago,we assumed that only the Northeast and Northwest coasts had the waters for a thriving bivalve crop. Not anymore. Southern oysters are finally getting recognized as the pearls they are. All along the Gulf and up the southern Atlantic coast, farmers who view their shores as the Napa Valley of aquaculture are carefully breeding bivalves with a fervor usually reserved for wine. Where to enjoy a feast over crushed ice? Kimball House is still the city’s preeminent oyster bar. Find delicate Massacre Islands from Mississippi, Bodie Islands from the Outer Banks, Sewansecotts and Chincoteagues from Virginia, and narrow Capers Blades from South Carolina. W.H. Stiles Fish Camp has diversified its sourcing and routinely shucks tiny Chunus from Smith Island and Petite Bullseyes from Virginia. At Noble Fin, I tasted extraordinary low-salinity oysters from Otter Island near Charleston. BeetleCat and the Optimist also bring in select singles from Virginia and Alabama.

Field notes

  • The new Asian supermarket (naturally called Asian Supermarket) at 5150 Buford Highway is like a mini version of Great Wall, with a tiny household goods section and a food court that includes a barbecue counter, a Sichuan counter, and a hot pot counter.
  • Those who need a quick meal near the airport should try the Southern plates at the Pig & the Pint on Virginia Avenue; just don’t tell your friends that it used to be a funeral parlor.

This article originally appeared in our September 2016 issue.

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