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Melissa Martin Will Up Nola's Raw Bar Game With Curious Oyster Co.

Expect raw bivalves, cracked crab claws, spicy shrimp, oyster soup and more at St. Roch Market's new oyster bar.

Effie Michot and Melissa Martin
Effie Michot and Melissa Martin

Upcoming food hall St. Roch Market officially debuts this Friday, April 10, in what is certain to be the biggest spring opening in New Orleans. Not only does the return of the market mark an important milestone for the community, but the business also solidifies St. Claude Avenue as the city's newest street of dreams when it comes to dining.

When the doors open, thirteen vendors will serve up everything from African food to oysters. This week, in anticipation of the opening, Eater NOLA talks to each of the lucky thirteen on what to expect at their counter, and what they're most excited about at the new St. Roch Market.

Up now, chef Melissa Martin. She formerly ran the kitchen at Cafe Hope, and is also the cofounder of Mosquito Supper Club, the popular Cajun brunch and supper club she runs along with pal Effie Michot.  But from this week on, you'll also know Martin as the mastermind behind Curious Oyster Company.  She comes from a long line of oyster fisherman, and has in hand a slew of family recipes she's ready to dazzle with as the market opens on April 10.

Here now, Martin talks sourcing, her grandmother's oyster soup, and why everybody should be jumping for joy.

What all will you be offering at St. Roch Market?

A variety of oysters from the east coast, west coast, and Gulf coast as well as  a small seafood-centric menu. We'll be getting our Gulf oysters from a variety of different vendors in New Orleans. We'd love to have ten different kinds of oysters, but for now, we'll start with two, till we see what the demand is. We'll also have stuff like pickled shrimp, cracked crab claws, and other dishes that will spotlight vegetables that are at the peak of the season. We'll have a daily salad... also a cheese plate because we like making fruit compotes. We'll be making our own cocktail sauce, and mignonette, and offering saltines as well as a slice of local bread with butter.

What's one dish that you're most excited to offer and why?

Besides our oysters, I'm really excited to share my late grandmother Velma Marie's oyster soup. My grandparents lived in Cocodrie and my grandfather was an oyster fisherman, so my grandmother cooked oysters every way you could think of. She used to joke that the only thing she hadn't made was oyster preserves. She got all those recipes from her mother, they came from a long line of oyster fishermen. One of my favorite dishes growing up was her oyster stew— it's a tomato based oyster soup and you don't find that often around here, it's almost always cream based. I'm hoping that when people want a hearty soup, they'll come in and have it with a hunk of country bread and be happy and satisfied.

What does St. Roch Market mean to you? Why did you apply for a vendor spot?

Well, I've lived and worked in the area for a long time and I'm just so happy to see some life in the neighborhood. It's great to see more people opening up businesses, and people living where they work. The concept of the shared resource market is a bit of a foreign one around here, and I'm excited to be a part of it. I love that families can come with their kids, and everyone can get what they like, not everyone has to agree on the same food. Also, the community space for businesses is great too. I've always wanted to open an oyster bar, but didn't want to deal with maintaining a space, like dealing with the plumbing and all that. This allows me to do what I wanted without worrying about the infrastructure and overhead.

What other vendor are you most excited about?

I'm excited about Local Forage and having access to more local foods. I'm such a sucker for farmers markets and those roadside stands, you know, the ones with the table of produce and you take what you need and leave the money in a jar? So it's incredibly exciting to know that there's someone who's making it their job to forage and bring what they find to the market. And it's more outlets for farmers to get their products to people, which is good. Also, I'm super excited about Shank Shack because we need more butchers in the city. Kris Doll has transformed so many places he's worked at and it's great he's able to spread his wings. I've worked with him before, and he listens to you, and understands what you need, which is a great quality in a butcher. And since there's only one other butcher in the city working with local farmers, I think everyone should be jumping for joy that he's here.

St Roch Market

2381 Saint Claude Avenue, , LA 70117 (504) 609-3813 Visit Website