Former owner of Cafe Negril to open “The Half Shell” oyster restaurant on Esplanade Ave.

23. August, 2014

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A new restaurant, The Half Shell Oyster Bar and Grill, is set to open on Esplanade Avenue in the Faubourg St. John neighborhood as early as Sunday, the owner told Mid-City Messenger.

(The Half Shell Oyster Bar and Grill).

The full service eatery, which will be operated by former Cafe Negril owner Mark Johari Lawes, is taking over an empty building on 3101 Esplanade that once housed the restaurant Creole Cottage.

The Half Shell specializes in oysters, but will also serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, Lawes said.

“I was just planning on doing lunch and dinner, but neighbors told me there’s no good breakfast place around here,” Lawes said. “So I decided I would do a full-service breakfast.”

Lawes says The Half Shell will also offer lunch dishes such as roast beef poboys, burgers, and shrimp, as well as dinner items including lobster tails, steak, chicken and vegetarian options.

He’s also going to feature a special sauce that he’s created specifically for charbroiled oysters.

“People in New Orleans love to eat. It’s a good thing — that’s what we’re going to take care of,” Lawes said.

Lawes operated Cafe Negril from 2001 to 2002. He’s also been the owner of several other businesses in New Orleans, including nightclubs Patio 79 in Fountainbleau and Club Kisses in Gentilly.

Lawes didn’t initially plan to open a restaurant along Esplanade Ridge, but says he saw opportunity when he was passing through the neighborhood one day.

“I passed and saw an empty building,” he laughed. “It looked like it needed to have a tenant, and I had a few dollars, so I said, ‘You know what, maybe I should just open a restaurant.’”

He added that the restaurant won’t serve liquor when it first opens, but that he has plans to apply for a full liquor license once the business can pay the alcohol permit.

“It’s nice to have a cold beer with some oysters,” he said.

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