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San Antonio 100: Iconic Chicken Fried Oysters from Bliss 

  • Courtesy of Bliss

We're compiling a list of our favorite 100 dishes in the city with the San Antonio 100. Check back weekly for a new dish we love that either screams SA or you need to enjoy ASAP.

We don’t know who the brave soul was who slurped down the first raw oyster. But we do know, or at least we assume, that it was a long time before the first chicken fried version appeared. Again, humor me, let’s posit that this leap occurred in Texas —  at Biga at its first location. Mark Bliss, who was dinner sous chef at the time (1992), says the inspiration came from a fried oyster dish at The Tarpon Inn in Port A and was taken forward from there by him, lunch sous chef David Garrido, and owner/chef Bruce Auden. “Its initial presentation was on the half shell as a kind of deconstructed Rockefeller,” says Bliss. Texas chicken fried steak meets Gulf Coast oyster under the same, crispy mantle. Minus the cream gravy, of course.

The CFO accompanied Bliss to Silo during his tenure there, and it’s still on the menu, where it’s called “signature,” in an incarnation served with sautéed spinach, applewood smoked bacon, and mustard hollandaise. Originally, says Bliss, it was presented over angel hair pasta “to change it up a bit.” (As later modified by Garrido, fried yucca chips were part of the equation.) The now-iconic creation also remains on the menu at Biga where it comes accompanied with swiss chard, pancetta, and whole grain mustard hollandaise and is dramatically presented over black, squid ink linguini. The dish will not die.

With all due respect to the other co-creators, I somehow think of Mark Bliss’s eponymous restaurant in Southtown as its primary home. Here it’s currently served as an “easy to pick up” slider with buttermilk chive biscuits, candied bacon, spinach, brown butter hollandaise, and more chives for garnish. It’s a personal favorite when I feel like sitting at the bar with a glass of white wine on the lush side. My early oyster experiences were of the Puget Sound sort (and my mother made killer biscuits), so this puts together homes past and present. I’ll toast that with a sparkler such as Bliss’s Contadi Castaldi Brut Rosé — which does the trick with oysters both raw and artfully fried. No courage needed.

926 S. Presa St., (210) 225-2547.

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