Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar

Oyster Bar | Seafood
excellent
Worth a detour
Michael Stern | July 31, 2020
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My fondness for the Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar is not as ardent as most locals’, who, in a newspaper poll, voted it “Best New Aiken Restaurant” when it opened in 2019. The fish is fresh and the preparations are tasty – no doubt about that — and service is eager-to-please. However, despite it being a mile from where I live, I tend not to eat at it too often. Why? It feels formulaic, which, to an aficionado of restaurants with unique personality, is not compelling.

Having gotten that off my chest, let me tell you about the good things to eat at Aiken Fish House. That is, Aiken Fish and Oyster House, meaning that James River oysters on the half shell are swell — simple, direct, subtly briny.  Raw is the best way to have them. These oysters doctored up with cheese et al or fried tend to lose their subtle marine charm.

Among the broad assortment of flatfish, grouper is a stand-out. It flakes easily into firm, bite-size nuggets, the sweet meat especially well complemented by blackening spices. Fried and broiled versions also are available. The grouper comes as a sandwich or as a “grouper bites” appetizer with a ramekin of melted butter or as the centerpiece of dinner along with two side dishes and a couple of crisp-coat hushpuppies.

Beyond simple fish and oysters, the kitchen’s repertoire features a Lowcountry shrimp boil, shrimp & grits, fish tacos, Alaskan crab legs, and Maine lobsters.

Noteworthy side dishes: intensely verdant bacon-laced collard greens, heavyweight mac & cheese, cheese grits, and whole potatoes. Sweet potato fries come with a cup of marshmallow Fluff for dipping — a pairing that seems silly but tastes great. (Think Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole with melted marshmallows on top.)

Indoor seating at booths and tables surrounds customers with expectable nautical brick-a-brac. Outdoor tables under a tent in the parking lot were set up to deal with Pandemic lock-down and social-distancing rules. Whether outdoor seats will continue beyond the panic is not currently known.

What to Eat
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Blackened Grouper
Blackened Grouper
Must-Try
Blackened grouper falls easily into big, sweet chunks.
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Carolina Flounder Sandwich
Carolina Flounder Sandwich
Must-Try
Carolina flounder sandwich, only in name. This luxurious meat wants a fork.
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet Potato Fries
Must-Try
Sweet potato fries come with a ramekin of marshmallow Fluff for dipping.
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Collard Greens
Collard Greens
Must-Try
Bacon-laced collards pack intense vegetable flavor.
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Fish Combo
Fish Combo
Must-Try
Fish combo: shrimp, oysters, scallops, flatfish, deviled crab
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Oysters
Oysters
Must-Try
James River oysters, dressed to a fare-thee-well
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Seafood Kitchen
Seafood Kitchen
Must-Try
Some of everything, blackened, plus devil crab, sweet potato, and hushpups
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Grouper Bites
Grouper Bites
Must-Try
Favorite appetizer: blackened grouper bites with butter for dipping
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Hushpuppies
Hushpuppies
Dense, onion-sweet hushpuppies come with dinners.
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Bang Bang Shrimp
Bang Bang Shrimp
Bang Bang shrimp are radiant with Buffalo sauce.
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Hamburger
Hamburger
A decent 3/4 pound burger ... but not why one comes here
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer
An Arnold Palmer (lemonade & tea) is great for teetotalers.
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Oyster Po Boy
Oyster Po Boy
Fried oysters tend to be overwhelmed by their breading.
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Steamed Broccoli
Steamed Broccoli
It looks plain, but a veil of melting cheese makes steamed broccoli luxy
Aiken Fish House & Oyster Bar, Fish Taco
Fish Taco
Very generous fish taco. Shrimp tacos also are available.
Directions and Hours
Information
Price
$
Seasons
Open Year Round
Meals Served
Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
Yes
Alcohol Served
Yes
Outdoor Seating
Yes
Website

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