'Walrus and the Carpenter' at Cheers in the Heights | Rock Candy

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

'Walrus and the Carpenter' at Cheers in the Heights

Posted By on Wed, Oct 9, 2013 at 7:20 PM

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'O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.
—Lewis Carroll


I love oysters. I've eaten the tasty bivalves everywhere from locally at The Oyster Bar on Markham Street and Oaklawn Jockey Club to places as far flung as Seattle and way down on the Gulf of Mexico. The wide variety of flavors, sizes, and textures that I've experienced with oysters is surprisingly diverse, with differing levels of briny and sweet flavors giving each breed of the little gray beauties their own character and individuality. An entire dozen on the half shell isn't much of a challenge for me when I get going, and it's only a matter of restraint and what little dignity I have left that keeps me from gorging myself crazy every time an oyster dish is on the menu.

But there's more to life than raw oysters, and if I can't get them raw, I'll take them prepared the best way the South knows how: battered and fried. Oh sure, you lose a lot of the subtle flavors that a raw oyster provides, but if the breading is done well, you gain a spicy, crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-middle treat that I find more enjoyable than the king of fried seafood, shrimp. And when it comes to oysters of the fried variety, Little Rock has some contenders for king — the aforementioned Oyster Bar, Flying Fish, and Krazy Mike's all boast respectable versions of the delicate deep-fried treats. Topping them all, though, is the little restaurant on N. Van Buren that's been serving up good eats in Little Rock for nearly 40 years: Cheers in the Heights.

The oysters at Cheers are small, which is good for the fried variety, since a small oyster allows for a perfect meat-to-coating ratio that makes every bite balanced — and Cheers makes up for the smaller size of these oysters by loading up each plate with a plentiful helping. The breading is spicy and flavorful, coating each oyster well without being too thick. The oysters themselves are mild and not at all fishy, but with a flavor that comes through in each bite. Topping the whole affair is a tangy remoulade sauce that sets everything off into a wonderland of crunchy, savory seafood bliss. I used to think that the fried mushrooms were Cheers' greatest appetizer, but these oysters are even better. And although I didn't weep for the mollusks as did the Walrus, when it came time to head back home, my plate was clean and all were gone.

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