With so much fresh, delicious seafood in our backyard, it only makes sense that there’d be a wealth of Gulf seafood restaurants along Alabama’s coast.
But there aren’t many that can match the history and success of the Original Oyster House.
In The Beginning
It all started with a pair of families: Joe and Mary Lou Roszkowski and David and Jane Dekle. Joe and David partnered up in 1982 and opened the first Original Oyster House location in Gulf Shores in May of 1983.
As business grew quickly, they knew they had to expand their operation. So they opened up a second location in 1985 on the Mobile Bay Causeway.
Now, three decades later, the Original Oyster House is using the same formula they always have to satisfy millions of guests: fresh Alabama Gulf Seafood in a family-friendly setting.
“Our niche has always been families,” said Roszkowski. “We’re not a bar, we don’t do sports, we don’t do drink specials or anything like that. We’re a family seafood restaurant. And we’d like to think that we treat our guests and our employees the same. We’re all family.”
A Commitment to Gulf Seafood
While it’s who they serve that’s most important to the Original Oyster House team, what they serve is a close second. Ever since opening their doors, Roszkowski and Dekle have been committed to serving Alabama Gulf Seafood throughout their menu.
“We’ve always been from this area of the country, and it was always available,” said Roszkowski. “We never really considered any place else.”
And with fans that stretch across the country—CNN named the Original Oyster House one of the best oyster bars in America—they go through quite a bit of Gulf seafood.
Every year, the Original Oyster House serves up roughly 400,000 pounds of fresh Gulf oysters, fish, shrimp, crab between the two restaurants.
The most popular dish? No surprises there.
“What we probably push the most is seafood platters,” said Dekle. “That is probably our biggest seller, the different variation of seafood platters. Grilled, baked, fried. Seafood platters are our bread and butter.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better pot of gumbo, too. “We make it fresh every day,” said Dekle. “It’s actually a recipe that was David’s mom’s recipe.”
Embracing the Community
They like to give credit where credit’s due, though. If you stop by the Original Oyster House today, you’ll see several of South Alabama’s seafood processors and their respective histories—Dana’s Seafood, Junior Barbour Seafood, Jubilee Seafood, and more to come in the near future.
They’re doing their part to support their seafood namesake too. They just sponsored a 2015 Oyster Trailblazer Calendar full of fascinating oyster facts and $75 in deals at both restaurant locations. These calendars support oyster reef restoration, gardening, and environmental education here on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
Spreading the love like this is what keeps the Original Oyster House team humble—and it doesn’t stop at the restaurants. They’re always out in the community helping out with events, fundraisers, and times of need.
“We’ve been blessed to be in business for over 30 years, and ever since we started, we have worked hard to give back to our community that has always supported us,” said Dekle.
They work pretty hard at it, too. For instance, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, both Original Oyster House locations were closed for two months. But they didn’t sit around and feel sorry for themselves—they took their fryers, went to places like Bayou La Batre and parts of Mississippi, and cooked fresh seafood for people who had lost everything.
“We had an eye-opening experience,” Roszkowski said. “We realized that really we had no problems.”
The Next Chapter
This sort of community dedication is a big reason why the Original Oyster House has developed such a loyal following the past three decades. But as Dekle says, becoming complacent in the restaurant business is the quickest way to go backwards.
So what’s next for the Original Oyster House? The same thing other forward-thinking chefs and restaurateurs are embracing: sustainability.
“The sustainability aspect of the seafood, or sustainable seafood, seems to be the next big thing,” said Roszkowski. “Whether it’s shrimp farming, whether it’s oyster farming, whether it’s snapper farming, it’s gonna have to be something like that.”
Whatever the future holds for the Original Oyster House, it’s safe to say they’ll keep serving some of the tastiest fresh Gulf seafood on the coast.
If you’re in the neighborhood, pay ‘em a visit at their Gulf Shores location or on the Mobile Causeway. And tell ‘em we sent y’all.