'Nothing was purchased ready-made," Brooks Reitz says of Leon's Oyster Shop, which opened over Memorial Day weekend. "We either had something made or found something."
That's true not just of the decorating details in the Upper King dining room, which include light covers salvaged from the Hardee's on Marion Square, spinning bar-top oyster trays inspired by a British design and paintings by local artist David Boatwright. Reitz and co-owner Tim Mink also surveyed the South for practiced talent, recruiting former The Ordinary chefs Ari Kolender and Geoff Rhyne to serve as head chef and sous chef, respectively, and Mike Rogers to run the shucking program.
For 32 years, Rogers shucked oysters at New Orleans' legendary Uglesich's.
Reitz stresses that Leon's is not a New Orleans restaurant, but its grit-meets-glamour philosophy was borrowed partly from the city's culinary culture. "We're embracing the roughness of everything," Reitz says.
Leon's specializes in oysters, fried chicken and fried fish, but the menu also includes snacks and salads. The only dessert choice is vanilla soft-serve ice cream.
"There's an opportunity to come in and have an affordable meal, or a whole roasted fish from (Abundant Seafood's) Mark Marhefka and a nice bottle of wine," Reitz says.
Leon's Oyster Shop is at 698 King St. The restaurant is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. To learn more, call 531-6500 or visit leonsoystershop.com.