Bywater Oyster Bar & Grill opens in Old Town Helena

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer 

HELENA — You’ll certainly feel like you’re dining seaside when you sample a seafood dish at Bywater Oyster Bar & Grill.

Even though the closest body of water is nearby Buck Creek, the new establishment in Helena’s Old Town district seeks to create a coastal state of mind amidst the historic backdrop of the 1890s structure occupied by 4085 Helena Road.

Bywater offers Gulf fare seafood, fresh oysters and hand-cut steaks with an emphasis on everything made in-house.

“Everyone’s just been very supportive of each other,” said proprietor Matthew Norman, co-owner of Bywater alongside Jason Hennington and parents Richard and Mary Ann Norman.

Before locating to Helena, Norman was looking to expand from another project, Parish Seafood & Oyster House in Trussville, which has recently closed for remodeling and relocating. That restaurant had been in operation since 2012.

Norman was approached by Joe Habshey, a local property owner, and became interested in the area, the people and the town and started scouting out opportunities. He would come to fall in love with what Helena had to offer.

“He is very, very supportive of the growth of Helena and his hometown,” Norman said of Habshey.

Bywater employed Executive Chef Brian Hedeman and started out with a soft opening on Dec. 21, 2019. An official grand opening is in the works, although an exact date has yet to be determined.

Bywater’s signature dishes include Gulf Red Snapper Étouffée, Bywater Shrimp & Grits, Red Fish St. Bernard, Steen’s Cane Syrup Brown Butter U-10 Scallops, Gulf Grouper Pontchartrain and Seafood Pomodoro.

“I just enjoy serving people and people enjoying what we created,” said Hennington.

When asked what sparks his passion for the restaurant business, Norman said, “People, short and simple. People.”

Mary Ann Norman said she wants those who dine at Bywater to leave “full” and “happy” and also spoke well of Helena.

“They’re the nicest people I’ve ever met anywhere. They’re a busy little town. They have all sorts of activities,” she said.

Bywater Oyster Bar & Grill is open Monday through Saturday with service starting at 4 p.m.