Neighborhood favorite Fontaine’s Oyster Bar

Terah Boyd | The Signal

Fontaine’s Oyster House, on the corner of Virginia Avenue and Highland Avenue, in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood, is typically packed. The joint boasts a neighborhood bar vibe with good seafood. They have part of their act perfected.

The gloomy, all-wood feel of the space, lit with huge, funky amber-colored bulbs, makes for a charming bar. A plus is the vintage mirrors on the back of the main bar, and you are greeted by a standing-only raw oyster bar by the door.  The bar’s raw oysters, from the east coast and Gulf of Mexico, are served year-round.

The menu is composed of typical seafood fare and some land offerings (I expected chicken fingers and chicken sandwiches, but the eggplant parmesan caught me off guard). Bar-wise, there is a variety domestic and popular import beer that is a crowd pleaser, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The starters were a bit pedestrian, but not terrible. The pimento crab dip was much more cheese than crab. The fried pickles were really small and hard to eat. The mussels were very nice and tender. I had them with the white wine sauce that was buttery and sweet.

The bar’s name sake was, the raw oysters, were nothing fancy, but really tasty oysters. They were salty, briny and fresh. Served with a little cocktail sauce, horseradish and lemon, there were a plate of oysters on every table.

On a cold winter day, Fontaine’s soup offerings are a welcomed delight. The lobster bisque is creamy and not too acidic from the tomato. The milky oyster stew is packed with tender oysters.

This particular evening’s hook of the day, the swordfish, was no catch. The grilled fish steak was over cooked and tough.  The shrimp, on the other hand, had a nice texture and breading.

Service was a challenge for Fontaine’s. The demeanor of the wait staff was friendly, but very rushed and not too helpful. Drinks were never refilled and the one checkup we received was a passing glance.

Fontaine’s also still allows smoking (although there is a non-smoking area available). This might be a plus for some and a deal breaker for others.

Fontaine’s is a cool-looking bar that happens to serve surprisingly great soups and raw oysters. Drop in and grab a shot or a round of oyster. If the service or the food isn’t working out at least you are in Virginia-Highland with more than a dozen bars and restaurants foot steps away.