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On East Sunshine Street in Springfield, a Cajun restaurant called the “Big Easy Grill”—and its customers—are celebrating. It’s been nearly six months since they’ve been able to get oysters, due to the Gulf oil spill. And that means they’ve been unable to serve up their oyster po-boys, their special oyster dinner, and to throw them in the gumbo or the jambalaya. KSMU's Jennifer Moore stopped by to visit with them and to talk about it.
Inside, the southern Zydeco music is playing with its trademark accordion, fiddle, and French Creole lyrics. The smell of cayenne pepper, bay leaf, onion and celery greets me, as does the restaurant’s owner, Hank Visio.
He was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, and he says it’s been a long wait for these oysters.
Visio: “Well, it’s one of our staples. And as a small restaurant owner, I’m sure there were oyster beds that were destroyed in the Gulf. Sometimes I wonder, as a small restaurant owner, why wasn’t I getting them? Because I knew they were available to large chains. And I think that’s one of the hard parts about being the ‘little guy.’ Because you don’t get the preferential treatment.”
Moore: “Can I ask you how your business was affected without this ‘staple,’ as you call it, of oysters?”
Visio: “You know, it didn’t really affect it at all. Sales really did not go down. We were much more hurt two or three years ago by the economy. And that has seemed to recover for us.”
Moore: “Do your customers know that oysters are back?”
Visio: “They will soon. Our customer base is a ‘regulars’ base. They come in every week and they ask every week, ‘When are we going to have them?’ I was very happy today when I finally got oysters. But when I got them back here, they were very small. So I have all these ups and downs in this business. They had a very good flavor. But they were probably a third of the size a good select oyster. So they’re good for po-boys, but I can’t serve them with a dinner.”
Moore: “Is there any way I could see the oysters?”
Moore: “Is there?”
Visio: “Yes. You want to see one now?”
Moore: “Yeah, that would be great!”
[Sound: bag of oysters rustling]
Moore: “Okay, now these are raw.”
Visio: “These are raw. And a normal oyster, is like this, so you’re looking at about a third the size.”
Moore: “And we’re looking at one that’s what, about an inch long?”
Visio: “Uh, yeah, it’s the size of a quarter, maybe. Maybe a bit bigger than that...however, they do have a very good flavor, but I’m very unhappy with these.”
Moore: “So, what’s the plan?”
Visio: “Get back on the phone and start griping.”
Moore: “Hank Visio, at Big Easy Grill, thank you very much.”
Again, Hank Visio is owner at the Big Easy Grill on East Sunshine. After nearly six months of going without oysters due to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he finally received a shipment Friday.
This is KSMU News.
[Sound: music fades out]