I am pescetarian, hear me roar.
Finding a casual dining experience where seafood gets pushed to the front of the menu is hard to do in the District. Luckily for all of us, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace is doing a really good job of making seafood the star for once.
The glowing blue sign for Pearl Dive hanging above the front door appropriately spells out the kind of vintage nuances you’re about to enjoy. The décor is casual with wooden booths and tables that will make you happily sigh “breathing room.” There is a very New England vibe to the restaurant although it sits perfectly in its urban home. If there is a line — and trust me, there soon will be — the hostess will hand you a number and you can watch for the number on the ticking neon counter.
Our waiter was more than friendly — he looked happy to be there. Nostalgic metal tins of biscuits and jalapeño cornbread arrive and they have soft butter to go with them. But the bread isn’t meant to distract you because hardly one beer into a good conversation our six raw oysters arrived with two sauces, a classic cocktail sauce and “dive sauce,” a mix of vinegar, cilantro and peppercorn.
The waiter explained the kind of oysters we had (California, Raspberry and a third neither me or nor my dinner companion could remember). The sound of cheerful slurping around the restaurant — including our own — let’s you know that Pearl Dive is legitimate.
A few moments later our oyster po’boy sandwiches and fries arrive — a meal we were hoping would stave the chill off our rainy day. My companion tried the CEBLT po’boy — a fried egg on top of catfish, with bacon lettuce and tomato. I tried the traditional oyster po’boy — fried oysters with pickles and aioli sauce on Ledenheimer bread. Both sandwiches were messy and difficult to eat, and I found the Dive fries to be short on flavor and oddly crunchier than my fried oysters.
When the dessert menu came around, I desperately wanted to try the Derby pie to see how it stacked up against my mother-in-law’s version. But I had little room left for the rich slices I saw being inhaled at other tables. You can bet I’ll be back soon with my eye on a slice of pie.
Pearl Dive is showing its heritage very well — owners Jeff and Barbara Black have a dedicated legacy of delivering quality seafood to restaurants in Maryland and D.C. like BlackSalt, Addie’s and Black’s Bar and Kitchen. Bottom line: You’ve done good, this one shines.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
- Where Am I Going? 1612 14th Street NW.
- When Am I Going? Sunday-Thursday 11:30 am to 11 pm; open until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
- Delivery? No, but it’s a nice walk.
- Paycheck Pain? Appetizers $6 to $15, entrées $13 to $27.
- Say What? You can hold a comfortable conversation here.
- What You’ll Be Eating: Raw oysters are the star here, but you can find solid creole food such as gumbo and fried po’boy sandwiches.