1. Utterly fresh and succulent Apalachicola oysters on the half shell, at a price that doesn’t break the bank
2. RC’s chargrilled oysters flambéed with garlic butter and parmesan cheese or bacon, jalapeño and sharp white cheddar
3. “Boutique” oysters from whatever part of the country has the finest and freshest that day
Oh, and did I mention the oysters?
Okay, I’m being a bit facetious. But as an oyster fanatic, I am elated that Rich Clark and Jon Schwenk chose Roswell as the location for Hugo’s, only their second seafood restaurant in six years.
Sure, there are other places in north Fulton you can get oysters. But the bivalves generally aren’t their primary focus, which can adversely affect the product price.
At Hugo’s, oysters are the eatery’s biggest draw, and their quality can’t be beaten. Two truckloads a week come directly to the restaurant from a reliable, old-time Apalachicola purveyor, and brisk sales ensure a turnaround in inventory.
A dozen Gulf oysters on the half shell come with sides of lemon, horseradish, cocktail sauce and a nicely acidic mignonette. On the table will be a bottle of Ed’s Red XX Hot Sauce, a Florida concoction with hot red peppers, horseradish, vinegar, lemon juice and garlic and onion powders.
It would have been my choice to spice up lesser oysters, but the ones in front of me were absolutely perfect the way they were. Brimming with their own liquor, plump and juicy, these babies had just enough salinity to accent their natural flavor without adding anything extra.
At $13.25 for 12, they are a very good bargain, considering I’ve paid the same or more per oyster when I buy a batch retail to shuck myself.
(Although excellent buys can be found at Kathleen’s Catch in Johns Creek.)
The “boutique” bivalves from other locales around the U.S. seaboard do ring up at a higher tariff and Hugo’s stock depends on market availability.
On a recent weekday, sources included New Brunswick, Maine and Rhode Island. For the oyster aficionado, it’s fascinating to taste and compare the variety in textures and flavors.
If I can tear myself away from the shellfish, a plethora of other seafood awaits.
Crawfish, mahi, flounder, trout, tuna, grouper, swordfish, trout and redfish all vie for attention.
The mahi, which I finally settled on, was cooked just right and perfectly seasoned. If you’ve ever tried to cook this fish, you know how tricky it is to keep it from ending up dry and unappetizing.
I think I can safely say that’s something you’ll never have to worry about at Hugo’s, where Schwenk, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, knows how to treats seafood.
A native of the Hamptons in New York state, he grew up a mile from Long Island Sound and developed an affinity for fish and shellfish early on.
Clark was born in Mississippi and recalls his dad bringing home bushels of oysters from Biloxi. Though he moved to Atlanta, Clark always spent vacations along the Gulf coast to slake his seafood passions.
The pair had worked together at Brasserie Le Coze in Buckhead and Atlantic Seafood Company in Alpharetta before opening C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar in Vinings in 2007.
That award-winning restaurant quickly became a go-to spot for discerning diners wanting superlative seafood and a first-class culinary experience.
But Clark, a Roswell resident, and Schewnk, who lives in south Forsyth County, wanted to open a more casual eatery where customers could be comfortable watching SEC games while enjoying anything from oysters and beers to crawfish-stuffed flounder and an original Old Fashioned cocktail, ginger limeade with Hangar 1 vodka or a bottle of vintage pinot noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
They transformed a forlorn 30-year-old single story building on Alpharetta Highway at Alpine Drive into a comfortable, coastal-style eatery featuring white brick walls, black iron gas lanterns, a purple-stained concrete floor and a welcoming bar with bentwood chairs.
Price points here are well under those at the more upscale C&S, and the vibe is more relaxed. In addition to things shelled and finned, Hugo’s has non-marine offerings like steaks, grilled lemon chicken and a roast beef debris po’ boy.
There’s also an appealing brunch menu starring delectables such as crab cake Benedict, smoked trout and potato hash and bananas foster French toast.
Hugo’s Oyster Bar
10360 Alpharetta Hwy., Roswell
Click here for more photos of menu items at Hugo's Oyster Bar.