Review: DeMun Oyster Bar

At prime time on a weekend night, a stool at the DeMun Oyster Bar is a rare commodity. If you’re curious about which is the place to be in St. Louis right now, this is it.

As darkness falls on the short strip of venues tucked away off Clayton Road, throngs of locals crowd the tiny space at 740 DeMun Ave., forcing a line almost out the door. By 7 p.m. on most nights, the few seats at the tables and bar are full. Patrons pile in early for the cozy atmosphere, congenial company and cocktails from Chad George, the oyster bar’s resident mixologist, sommelier and bar manager, who, more often than not, is busy chatting it up with customers and soliciting drink selections. George has infused the libation menu with a unique selection of specialty cocktails such as the Crispins Manuscript, a mix of rye whiskey, Cherry Heering, lemon and Crispin brut cider. Another notable entry is the Lavender 75, a concoction of gin, lemon, lavender simple syrup and bubbly. The wine list is heavy on reasonably priced sparkling wines, though a fine list of whites and reds by the glass and bottle is also available. But if you’re looking for a cheap domestic brew to wash down a dozen oysters, you’ve walked through the wrong door: Imports, specialties and craft beers rule on this corner of DeMun.  

The raw bar takes center stage – an ice-packed, semicircular, molded-glass shucking station attended by bartenders and servers who dart back and forth pouring, pulling, shucking, mixing, moving. The decidedly nouveau décor creates the aura of a traditional Parisian bistro, complete with vintage tiling and a wall of mirrors. At first a bit underwhelming, the cozy space (only about 40 seats) is one of the most authentically European-looking spots in the city. Understated character abounds: Everything is fashionably expensive and well-placed (with the exception of a horribly clichéd “L’Instant Taittinger” print, the staple of every girl’s hip, post-college apartment, which looms tastelessly over the bar), and there’s an ideal dimness to the lighting and softness to the background music. Both add a nice touch to conversation. 

The oysters themselves, shipped in daily, are taken very seriously. A rotating selection of nine or so different varieties of the gorgeous, slimy beasts on the half shell run for about $3 apiece and arrive accompanied by a champagne mignonette to cut the briny flavor. 

Don’t think the bar’s quiet during the week; the venue draws a steady weekday crowd of neighborhood regulars and well-heeled couples. Much like its nearby sister wine bar, Sasha’s, the oyster bar appeals to a more mature, professional crowd who don’t mind shelling out a few extra dollars for a certain level of substance and style. 
Patio seating should provide splendid outside views of the quaint DeMun neighborhood in the warmer months ahead, and more importantly, a much-needed outlet to the maddeningly cramped interior. Hopefully by then the crowds will die down a bit, but given the reception this hip new spot is enjoying, the prospect is doubtful.  

Where: DeMun Oyster Bar, 740 DeMun Ave., Clayton, 314.725.0322
When: Mon. to Sat. – 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., Sun. – 5 p.m. to midnight
Check It: The impressive raw bar.
Hipster or Hoosier: A congenial mix of young professionals, mature couples and the pre-/post-dinner crowd.
Suds or ‘Tinis: Go for a glass of bubbly or one of the signature cocktails.