The Rolled Oyster, Louisville’s Oddball Bar Snack, Is Tumbling Off Menus

Rolled oysters have been a favorite break in Louisville, Ky., restaurants for some-more than a century, though misunderstanding in a oyster attention has caused them to dwindle.

Wikipedia/Southern Foodways Alliance

About dual weeks ago, we went to a Silver Dollar — a bar and grill in Louisville, Ky. Without even looking during a menu, we asked for my common — a basket of rolled oysters — usually to find they’d been taken off a menu.

This find led me into a ghastly blue inlet of a inhabitant oyster economy — and how it impacts a presence of an doubtful Louisville favorite.

“They were not labelled out as good as they should have been,” says Erica Goins, a cook during Silver Dollar. “The pricing on a menu should have maybe been practiced as a prices were increasing, though we consider that they kind of wanted to keep them during a indicate they were to keep them accessible to people.”

Rolled oysters are historically a bar break done by holding one or dual tiny Chesapeake oysters and rolling them in a thick cornmeal or cracker crust. Once deep-fried, they are about a distance of a softball, with some-more cloaking than tangible oyster.

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But as a cost of oysters has risen, chefs like Goins onslaught with charging entrée-level prices for this elementary snack.

“There was roughly no distinction margin,” she says.

Rolled oysters are an surprising internal favorite in a clarity that while they’ve been in Louisville restaurants for some-more than a century, there’s zero utterly “local” about a categorical ingredient.

But in a 19th century, interjection to new record like steamboats and railways, oysters done their approach from a East Coast opposite a U.S.

“Louisville was arrange of a executive point, and when it was arranged, oysters could transport by railroad,” says Stephen Hacker, author of Forgotten Restaurants of Louisville.

Oysters, he says, were really renouned in Louisville, and chefs began experimenting — chefs like Italian newcomer Phillip Mazzoni. Regional science has it that Mazzoni initial served rolled oysters in a late 19th century as a giveaway bar break for tavern congregation who bought a drink or whiskey.

Greg Haner, who was a final in a prolonged line of descendants who owned Mazzoni’s, says a plate is graphic from other boiled oyster varieties in that it doesn’t contend a hardness of an oyster.

“Basically, you’ve encased this oyster in cracker meal, boiled it, they detonate and a inside of a ambience is usually slimey goodness,” Haner says. “So people will say, ‘There’s no oyster in here!’ though that usually means that it’s perfect.”

He says it’s an acquired taste, though it’s one that helped keep Mazzoni’s essential until 2008, when both a retrogression and surging oyster prices eventually caused a grill to shutter.

And according to Don Webster, a informal aquaculture dilettante with a University of Maryland extension, oyster prices have usually continued to arise given then.

“In a Chesapeake and a mid-Atlantic, we had a integrate of diseases that changed in that influenced oysters,” Webster says. “That forsaken a collect down now from what was about a 2.5 million load collect — now we’re about 10 percent of that.”

That detriment of supply has driven a cost up.

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“[Prices] have risen utterly a bit,” Webster says. “Oysters behind in a ’70s and ’80s were 9 to 11 dollars a bushel, and a load competence have 250 to 300 oysters in it.”

Last year, oysters were $40-$45 a load — which, when we cause in additional travel costs and processing, explains because internal restaurants’ boost on a plate are dipping. While a caf� competence dump $2 on a tender oyster, a common boiled rolled oyster doesn’t authority a same prices.

But, Webster says, with new charge efforts and an boost in domestic aquaculture, he hopes within a decade oyster prices will settle.

And then, Louisville’s singular break competence be behind in area bars again — for good this time.