The seafood joints of Bucktown and its across-the-canal neighbor West End are their own genre. Their hallmark is the overflowing platter of fried or boiled seafood complemented by cold beer in frozen mugs and a healthy dose of familial conviviality. Conventional wisdom would dictate that any newcomer to the neighborhood would fall in place among its peers, but Alison Vega and her husband (and fellow chef) Drew Knoll decided to raise the bar and follow their own legacy when they opened Station 6.
Vega is best known for the Mediterranean fare she served at her eponymous tapas café on Metairie Road, which was a local forerunner of the small-plate trend. Knoll, whose resume includes a stint as chef de cuisine at Emeril’s Delmonico, has for the last several years worked as a seafood distributor, where he has cultivated direct relationships with crabbers, shrimpers and oyster harvesters. The couple’s tandem experience and influence are the heart and soul of Station 6.
Nary a hushpuppy nor a stuffed crab can be found on the menu. Instead, begin a meal with a bubbling crock of buttery crabmeat casserole spooned over toasted french bread rounds or a mélange of chopped fresh tuna, crunchy jicama slaw and local Choupiquet bowfin caviar kicked up with ghost peppers—flavors no doubt drawn from the couple’s near-decade spent living in the Caribbean. Cracked crab stew is the kitchen’s answer to gumbo sans okra, with shrimp and oysters bobbing around its richly dark base served over rice. Toasted buns from Weiss Guys Bakery in Covington are the foundation for sandwiches such as the oyster BLT and the Sloppy Drew, a combination of braised beef, melted provolone and onion jam that requires far fewer napkins than your typical roast beef po-boy.
A small but functional oyster bar serves up expertly shucked bivalves selected by Knoll from the weekly harvest (most recently just off the coast of Terrebonne Parish). The pristine oysters need only a squeeze of lemon to enhance their briny flavor, though a small dollop of the house cocktail sauce adds an appropriately pungent accent for those so inclined. Cold seafood fans will appreciate the house seafood salad of shrimp and crabmeat over little gem lettuce tossed with green goddess dressing, although the $18 price tag warrants a more substantial serving.
Instead of a claw machine and video poker, ambience is dominated by covered patio seating that can be left open to lake breezes during the spring and summer, or insulated with outdoor drapes and heaters on colder days. Smart, attentive waitstaff collaborate in an elevated dining experience that was until now missing from the lakefront. And if there was any doubt as to whether Station 6 is not ya mama’s Bucktown joint, consider that the happy hour special is a half-dozen oysters with a glass of Grand Cru champagne.