Houston seafood heads were dismayed when Little Pappas Seafood House, the historic seafood stalwart from Pappas Bros, permanently closed in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic after more than 30 years in business. Now, locals can take heart — another Pappas restaurant promising oysters and flavorful seafood dishes is opening in its place.
Pappas’ newest establishment, Little’s Oyster Bar, will open on Wednesday, May 17, according to a release — bringing a new menu to Shepherd Drive that screams Texas Gulf.
Chef Jason Ryczek, a California native, is leading the charge, with a menu created with an emphasis on catches from the Gulf and other thoughtfully sourced seafood. Diners will find lobster gnocchi, charcoal-grilled octopus, a chicken-fried snapper, a crawfish-loaded creole bisque, and in place of the Pappas Seafood’s beloved crabcake — meaty crab croquettes, filled with jumbo lump crab, scallops, and shrimp, plus a 10-seat raw bar with a rotation of oysters wild Texas Gulf shrimp, Maine lobster, and jumbo lump blue crab.
Sourcing locally will be a huge mission of the restaurant, with the Pappas company using their own boats to locally catch featured fish, including snapper, Grouper, and tilefish. Ryczek, who worked for years with the California Caviar Company, is also taking Little’s caviar service very seriously and will be using the six California white sturgeon he’s harvested since October to provide the caviar for the restaurant. Three styles of caviar will be served by the ounce, including a house caviar, Kaluga, and Osetra.
For any fish sourced from outside of the Gulf, Ryczek says he wants to do so with the utmost care. “As we lean on ingredients outside the Gulf, we’re looking for sustainability and proper sourcing just as we do in our own waters so we can leave the ocean a better place,” Ryczek said in a statement.
The restaurant is also keen on providing a pleasant drinking experience, with Pappas’ wine director Robert Smith and bar manager Oliver Brooks curating a beverage menu with lighter wines and bright cocktails that pair well with the seafood-focused menu. “One of the best parts of growing up in a coastal town is sitting outside with a container of crab, a pack of saltines, drinking beer in a plastic cup,” Ryczek says. “Obviously, our presentation is more refined.” Those seeking to imbibe can take pleasure in the champagne and white wines from Europe and the U.S., but Smith insists that there will be something for red wine lovers, too — with light to medium reds such as New World Pinot Noir and Burgundy. Cocktails will include aperitivo spirits and Brooks’s riff on a Garibaldi spritz that uses cappelletti, clarified carbonated orange juice, curacao, and vermouth.
Pappas’ in-house design team has renovated the space, creating a sleek and modern decor with gold accents and contrasting colors that welcome 80 people indoors and 50 on its patio. Those seeking to revel in some nostalgia can take in the subtle nods to the original Little Pappas Seafood House location, which opened in 1987. The repainted vintage sign hangs on the outside, while indoors prints of chef Zycek’s sketches of his dishes are framed on the entrance walls, guiding guests to the oyster bar, past the banquettes, tables, and millwork that stay true to the Pappas’ style.
Little’s Oyster Bar opens on Wednesday, May 17. The restaurant will be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations can be made on Resy starting on May 15. 3001 S. Shepherd Drive.