When exiting into the city of La Puente from the 10 Freeway, there’s a 15-minute stretch on Amar Street with plenty to see. Look for the man selling Mexican pottery out of his truck, the lineup of quality taco trucks, and the 59-year-old drive-thru marvel that is the Donut Hole. They’re all worth a visit in this suburb located 19 miles east of Downtown LA alone. But drive slightly past the Donut Hole for another notable stop. Father-son team Jakob and Eric “Red” Alvarado operate Red’s King Oyster Bar out of their La Puente home, along with Jakob’s childhood friend Kevin Lizarraga. Erik’s natural red hair is the reason for his nickname and the operation’s name.
The trio launched Red’s King Oyster Bar at the beginning of the pandemic. Though Red went to culinary school and sold Mediterranean food at local farmers markets, he switched to selling oysters after successfully testing his recipes on family members. While Red’s Instagram page prior to 2018 feature photos of meat kebabs and grilled squash, the current posts showcase oysters topped with lobster, manchego and Oaxacan cheeses, herbs, and as many ingredients as Red and Jakob can squeeze onto an oyster’s surface.
“We started off as me and my son,” says Red. “I love clams casino and wanted to try it with oysters. I thought these were amazing, so I wanted to share with everybody.”
Though raw oysters are available at the pop-up, the most popular items are thrown on a grill and bubble until ready. Red’s King Oyster Bar uses fat, juicy Fanny Bay oysters from Vancouver and serves them four ways: chargrilled Louisiana-style with bacon; topped with lobster and manchego and Oaxacan cheeses; flavored with Sriracha, and garnished with chorizo from San Pedro’s legendary Chori Man.
And the recipe ideas keep coming. Red and Jakob are testing out new mignonettes, and oyster and soft shell crab sliders. They recently invested in a professional deep-fryer to prepare oysters and chips as an alternative to fish and chips. The oysters are priced at $20 for a half-dozen or $33 for one-dozen; lobster oysters cost an additional $3.
Red works at Costco during the day, while Jakob handles most of the preparation at home. “Jakob is the one knocking out everything while I’m at work,” says Red. “He’ll call me on my lunch at Costco, and we split up the work once I’m there. I couldn’t do it without him.”
The Alvarados grew up in the neighborhood, so Red and Jakob personally know their customers. La Puente resident Ermalinda Rovera is a longtime fan. “The food is amazing and made with love,” she says. “[Red is] a hard working man making something out of nothing. He’s been a huge inspiration in the community and for me. I’ve always wanted to have a family business that would allow me to bond with my daughter instead of taking time away from her.”
Jakob is fully immersed in the oyster game. Not only is he is a quick shucker leaving no shells behind, but the 20-year-old makes his own jewelry from oyster shells with an Aztec flower. “I feel really proud to be working with my father at such a young age,” he says. “I told my friends that I know how to shuck and cook oysters. You’ve got to practice and it’s not easy. It took me a lot of time, but I finally became a fast shucker and cook now.”
Oyster-seekers can depend on service Saturdays and Sundays, but check Instagram for weekday pop-ups when Red has the day off from work. Red’s King Oyster Bar also delivers within a two-mile radius. Delivery requests come in from La Puente residents who don’t want to leave their homes and the owners of the corner liquor store. The Alvarados hope to make the business mobile with a food truck next year.
For Red, the oyster pop-up is about one thing. “I’m teaching my son something new — and he loves it.”
Red’s King Oyster Bar operates every weekend from 10 a.m. until sold out. DM on Instagram for pre-orders and the operation’s address.