What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Downtown Raleigh oyster bar opens Wednesday

Posted May 3

— A new oyster bar will open its doors in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday.

St. Roch Fine Oysters and Bar is located at 223 S. Wilmington St., in the former home of Joule Coffee. To celebrate its opening day, the restaurant will be serving up $1 oysters from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m.

"We are embracing the attitude of New Orleans," owner Chef Suny Gerhart has said.

Expect a laid back atmosphere and great food, but not a "New Orleans bar and restaurant."

St. Roch will have its own style.

St. Roch (pronounced like Rock) is named after the New Orleans neighborhood that Gerhart's family grew up in. While he still has family in Louisiana, Gerhart has called Raleigh home for 10 years. He was the first person famed chef Ashley Christensen hired when she was starting the award-winning Poole's Diner in downtown Raleigh. So Gerhart's roots and connections in the city are strong.

Gerhart is very familiar with St. Roch's location, as he used to work at Joule, another one of Christensen's ventures in the city.

Gerhart had been looking for months to find the right place for St. Roch. He and Christensen talked and realized that Joule was the perfect home for the oyster bar.

​After three years in business, Joule closed its doors on Dec. 31. Christensen remains an investor and consultant on St. Roch.

Work began in early January on St. Roch. The walls were painted and the bar-top redone using 100-year-old church pews from Philadelphia. But the restaurant mostly remained in its original state, giving Gerhart more time to work on his menu, which will include an oyster and raw bar and lots of seafood. There will also be boudin sausage and other Louisiana staples with a twist.

The menu is simple, focusing on fresh North Carolina oysters and claims from Locals Seafood. They will be served up raw or roasted in one of there compound butters. Menu highlights also include Muffuletta Salad (St. Roch's take on the Louisiana favorite), red beans and rice featuring a house made andouille sausage, duck and garlic sausage gumbo.

General manager Sean Umstead said the braised clams, which are served in a miso broth with pork belly, poached egg and oyster mushrooms, has also been a popular item during the restaurant's soft opening events over the weekend.

The bar menu will include a selection of wine and beer, and some specialty cocktails inspired by traditional New Orleans' drinks.

St. Roch's style can best be summed up with some of its artwork - a portrait of friend Justin Miller's chicken, Lydia. Gerhart had originally planned to hang the painting in the bathroom, but decided it looked too good not to have in the main dining room.

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