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While you read and see a lot about Vivian Howard’s Chef & The Farmer in Kinston, NC, the Boiler Room Oyster Bar should really be added to the places to go list!
Award-winning chef Vivian Howard’s inspiration for the Boiler Room was childhood road trips in Eastern North Carolina with stops at restaurants that never had food that appealed to her young palate. She describes the Boiler Room as “oysters, burgers and beer. Something for everyone – even a grumpy kid.” And it really is a casual atmosphere with something for everyone.
During our recent stay in Kinston, we visited the Boiler Room twice. Friday evening we sat at the bar and enjoyed some fried green tomatoes and “oysters boilerfeller,” a riff on oysters rockerfeller. We of course washed them down with some local beers from Mother Earth Brewing. We had great service at the bar from a helpful bartender, and the food was absolutely extraordinary.
Saturday, we returned for an early lunch. I worried that the place would be really crowded on a Saturday since they don’t take reservations. Arriving shortly after the doors opened at 11am, I shouldn’t have worried so much! By the time we left town, around 1pm, the Boiler Room was getting full. This time, we sat at the oyster bar and watched a young man shuck oysters.
We enjoyed more oysters boilerfeller (the bacon was a hit with us!). Allan ordered the fish and chips, which he said was light due to the panko used instead of traditional break crumbs. I tried the Peacekeeper, a type of po boy sandwich featuring fried oysters and shrimp. The oysters and shrimp were really juicy and flavorful. Although the bread was good, it was overpowering so I didn’t eat it. We also ordered the beef fat fries. Any time I’ve eaten fries made in an animal fat rather than peanut or vegetable, they have a different taste. These were really good — different to duck fat fries, but delicious none-the-less.
Dessert? Oh yes, please!
Our waiter on Saturday was not as good as our bartender on Friday. He neglected to refill our glasses and didn’t check on us after our food came to see if we needed anything. We did – we wanted vinegar to go with the fish and chips. The good news was that he recommended we have dessert. We hadn’t planned on eating any more but he bragged about the banana pudding. Although I like banana pudding, it is not usually in my top three choices for dessert. This banana pudding was unlike any other I’ve ever had. Instead of vanilla wafers, they used homemade shortbread. And the banana mixture itself was so light yet sweet in a way that was not overwhelming (and I like things sickeningly sweet!). That was the best banana pudding I’ve ever had and I don’t expect I’ll ever have another like it.
If you’re in Kinston, don’t overlook the Boiler Room! You won’t regret it!
Annick, The Common Traveler