Capitol Oyster Bar
Kelly Baughman | Photos by Josh Moates/KimBox Photography
When looking for a place that’s off the beaten path with unique waterfront dining and a laid-back vibe, locals look no further than Capital Oyster Bar. Weaving your way through the old streets of the warehouse district could make you think you’ve lost your way, but once you see the painted fishing schooner at the corner of Shady Street, you’ll know you are in for a treat. And you don’t have to get there by car; you can also get there by boat, docking right at the marina.
Owner Lewis Mashburn has long loved the riverside restaurant and brings fresh seafood, live music and a fun day on the water to all who are in search of something a little more coastal in the Capital City. A carpenter by trade, Mashburn moved to the Montgomery area in the early 80s to be closer to family. His wife took a job as a waitress at the already-established Capital Oyster Bar, and they both fell in love. “It was just a cool place to hang out. The people that worked there were like family, and it became a huge part of our lives,” he said.
In 1996, Mashburn had a chance to buy the Capital Oyster Bar, which was then located on the Southern Boulevard. Having known very little about the ins and outs of being a restauranteur, he took a leap of faith. “In those early days, I did anything and everything around there. I washed dishes, bussed tables, you name it. It really helped me learn the day-to-day operation of a restaurant and appreciate the employees for the hard work they do behind the scenes,” Mashburn said.
Mashburn credits a longtime employee and friend, George Johnson, who has since passed away, for teaching him there is more to a restaurant’s success than just the food. “I wasn’t very good at shucking oysters back then, and it would take me forever to get just one open. George would take one look at it, throw it away and say, “Presentation is everything. Do it again.” He taught me that it not only matters what you serve, but how you serve it,” he said.
Since those early days, Mashburn has left his career as a carpenter behind to focus solely on the restaurant. Even with the Gulf Coast oil spill crisis in 2010, which temporarily put the restaurant out of business, Mashburn could never get the restaurant scene out of his mind and set out to find a new location, leading him to the purchase of the Montgomery Marina in July 2011. His entire family has worked at the riverside joint at one point or another, and he said they all pride themselves on making the customer’s experience at Capital Oyster Bar one they will want to have again.
Mashburn uses suppliers from Bayou La Batre and Destin for his fresh fish and oysters and provides specials based on what’s in season. “I’ll try to do things like cobia, red fish, grouper and sometimes things like pompano. I want people to know they don’t have to be afraid to try something new because they can rest assured that they won’t get any better-quality fish, shrimp and oysters than they get right here,” he said. Whether fried, grilled or steamed, there is plenty to choose from between the shrimp, crab, oysters and fresh fish. You can even find steak here if you like a little “surf & turf!”
And the food isn’t the only thing that cooks at Capital Oyster Bar. Known for their great live music every Sunday, the restaurant was awarded the KBA (Keeping Blues Alive) Award for ‘Best Venue’ in 2019 from the International Blues Foundation. A world-renowned organization, the foundation plays an essential role in ensuring the present and future of the blues as well as celebrating this great American music tradition. “We were so honored and humbled to be recognized among others all over the world. We hope we can continue bringing Montgomery this honor year after year,” Mashburn said. This spring, Mashburn will travel to Memphis to serve on the judges’ panel to help select this year’s winner for the KBA Award.
In addition to the freshest seafood and hottest music in town, Capital Oyster Bar also features a campground, RV park and marina with pontoon rentals, boat launch, a walking path and more.
Whether you’re looking for delicious seafood, fantastic live music or a fun family day on the water, Capital Oyster Bar has it all, right on the Alabama river.