oysters

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The Baton Rouge version of a popular Gulf Coast seafood restaurant is set to open around August-September in a new shopping center under construction near Perkins Road and Bluebonnet Boulevard.

Southern Pearl Oyster House will anchor the development at the corner of Perkins and Hyacinth Avenue. Southern Pearl is the Baton Rouge version of the popular Biloxi, Mississippi, seafood chain Half Shell Oyster House. The name was changed for the local restaurant to avoid confusion with On the Half Shell, a longtime Prairieville oyster bar.

“Everything will be the same as the other locations except for the name,” said Kevin Fish, one of the owners of the restaurant chain’s parent company, Gulf Coast Restaurant Group.

That means a menu heavy on Gulf seafood dishes, such as boiled Royal Reds, grilled redfish and fried oyster po-boys. But true to its name, Southern Pearl will offer traditional Southern dishes such as shrimp and grits, turnip greens and fried okra.

“We do everything we use in large amounts from scratch,” Fish said. “We make our own Italian dressing, our own sauces. It’s completely original. We’re not re-inventing the wheel, but we are trying to make a little better wheel.”

The chain has 11 locations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including restaurants in Lafayette and Covington. Fish said Gulf Coast Restaurant Group had been trying to get into the Baton Rouge market for four years, before the other Louisiana locations ever opened.

“We kept making deals and they kept falling through,” he said. Fish said he’s optimistic about the Perkins location because there are enough people working in the area to ensure robust lunch business and enough nearby households to support the dinner service.

Plans are to hire 120 to 130 employees for the opening of Southern Pearl, with the number going down to 90 to 100 staffers after the restaurant has been open for several months. Fish said the property wants to be a little overstaffed at first to give servers and cooks a chance to get used to things.

Southern Pearl will take up more than 7,000 square feet in the shopping center. Other planned tenants for the property include an in-line retailer that will take up 11,000 square feet and a medical client that will take up an outparcel, said David Trusty, of Trusty Commercial Properties.


Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.