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If you love blues music, shucked bivalves, and a river view, Capitol Oyster Bar in Montgomery is your happy place.

At first glance it’s about as basic as basic gets, a building with metal siding and a land-bound fishing boat out front that acts as a business sign.

The sign signaling you’ve found Capitol Oyster Bar (Capitol Oyster Bar/Facebook)

It seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere—“down a street that looks like it’s leading to a great place to hide a body,” one reviewer describes the location on Shady Street by a bend in the Alabama River. 

But Capitol Oyster Bar is proof that looks can be deceiving, that greatness sometimes comes in humble packages. Its kitchen serves oysters, shrimp, and fish fresh from the Gulf of Mexico. Its interior and rear deck offer spectacular river views; owner Lewis Mashburn also operates a marina and rents pontoon boats there, among other enterprises.

A band plays at Capitol Oyster Bar (Clay Cook/Contributed)

And it may be one of the best places in Alabama to enjoy blues music. Hosting national, regional and local acts on Sundays, Capitol Oyster Bar was honored by the Blues Society in 2019 with its “Keeping the Blues Alive” award.

“The club is one of the premier venues in the South to showcase and promote top blues artists from across the United States,” the organization, which operates the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tennessee, says about Capital Oyster Bar. “Mashburn’s passion for the blues is evident in the way he and his staff treat both artists and patrons.”

Mashburn took over the restaurant in 1996, and moved to its current location in 2011. Tables are set up inside and on the deck. An interior wall is lined with autographed playbills from blues acts that the Capital Oyster Bar has hosted, including legends Bobby “Blue” Bland, Guitar Shorty, Marcia Ball, Bobby Rush, and Charlie Musselwhite. 

(Ellis Terry/Contributed)

Oysters, market priced, are served on the half shell, steamed, or baked Rockefeller style. Peel-and-eat boiled shrimp is a relative bargain ($14.95 for a pound, its website says). Its seafood gumbo is a local legend.

The menu includes fried alligator tail, frog legs, and crab claws, along with Shrimp Jammers—fried shrimp stuffed with jalapeño cheese. Seafood platters feature fried shrimp, scallops, and whole catfish; fried or grilled catfish filet or tilapia; and grilled amberjack.  

The restaurant also steams crab claws, Royal Red shrimp, and Alaskan snow crab legs (“U Crack ‘Um,” the menu says of the crustaceans). Po-boy sandwiches come with several seafood options. Specials with seasonal fresh-catch fin fish and shellfish are written on a board.

The fish-averse can order burgers, ribeye steak, and chicken tenders and wings. The family-friendly establishment also has a kids’ menu.

If you want dinner, go early. Capitol Oyster Bar’s kitchen closes at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday (it’s closed all day Monday and Tuesday). It opens at 11 a.m. weekdays and at noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

Capitol Oyster Bar is the kind of place where the locals go and tourists don’t know. Welcome to the club.