Eat Fresh, Local Seafood In Boston: Island Creek Oyster Bar

Island Creek Oyster Bar: Fresh Local Seafood In Boston

A guy walks into a bar — an oyster bar, that is. He asks the bartender if the restaurant sells oysters on the half shell. The bartender says, “Yes.” The guy asks, “Are they shucked?” (While he asks, he uses hand gestures to demonstrate, as if those that work in an oyster bar wouldn’t know what “shucking” is.) The bartender answers seriously: “If we didn’t shuck them, they’d be on the whole shell.” {Smile.}

I witnessed his exchange at a Boston bar; I gut-laughed, texted my husband, and decided the bartender was most assuredly a favorite of mine. He confided that this question annoys people who serve fresh-shucked oysters for a living. Who knew?

Why am I recounting this silly conversation? First, I’m hoping someone will find it as humorous as I did. I also don’t want to forget it. (It still makes me chuckle.) Most importantly, if you travel to Boston, you need to know about this restaurant — the one with the bar, the oysters, the crazy patron, and the humorous bartender.

Desperately Seeking Serious Seafood In Boston

I traveled to Boston for my day job eight weeks straight. Most people would have dreaded the trek — I did somewhat, knowing I’d miss the time at home with family and friends. But I looked at my half full glass; I worship good, fresh, local seafood! I live in Dallas where the seafood can be dang good, but you know it wasn’t caught less than a day or two before you’re eating it. So I flew to Boston with a mission: Find some seriously local seafood to relish on the Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesday nights I’d dine in the area.

I savored sweet, seared scallops at Legal Sea Foods, one of the most well-known restaurant groups in Boston. A close friend introduced me to the No Name Restaurant — a spot-on dive that hovers over the dark waters as boats unload the day’s catch nearby. (I ate fried clams for the first time.) And I dined with coworkers at Sonsei, where crab deviled eggs and fresh fish made me say “mmmmm.” But nothing moved me more than the Island Creek Oyster Bar — a restaurant adjacent to the lovely Hotel Commonwealth (my new favorite hotel) at Commonwealth Avenue and Kenmore.

What Makes The Island Creek Oyster Bar So Special?

  • Before it became a restaurant, it was an oyster company with soul. Skip Bennett grew up in Duxbury, Massachusetts and started a small oyster farm, fueled by passion, energy, and community collaboration. Despite challenges, Skip’s Island Creek oyster farm flourished, becoming a successful, profitable oyster producer. Island Creek Oysters, Inc. distributes the farm’s output, and its web site emphasizes the connection to the farm: “The farm is at the heart of everything we do here at Island Creek. A muddy windswept flat in Duxbury Bay is where it all started and where it will always remain. Here in our own backyard we grow food — the kind that’s good for the people who eat it, for the people who grow it, and the place where it is raised. We hope you love eating our oysters as much as we love growing them.”
  • The restaurant’s menu changes regularly, consistently spotlighting fresh, local food. The raw bar dishes up a well-rounded supply of oysters from Duxbury and neighboring areas. (Please don’t ask if they’re shucked.) You can buy them by the shell or mixed-and-matched with littleneck clams and some really lovely shrimp. They prepare seasonal salads, rich soups, crispy fried clams, and other intriguing seafood dishes. I fell in love with the fried clams, the Island Creek oysters, and the fluke crudo. Food is prepared and served simply and with obvious care.
  • Its beginnings are chronicled in a thoroughly enjoyable book. The Island Creek Oyster Bar’s roots are humble, and you can read about them in the book Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm, written by Erin Byers Murray. Erin, a successful food and lifestyle writer, had a yearning, and through an interesting turn of events, she ended up working for twelve months at Island Creek Oysters, learning about the oyster’s journey from farm to table. The city-girl-gone-oyster-farmer tale entertains, educates, shares a few recipes, and acquaints you with the folks that put Island Creek Oysters on the map.

Sometimes, you love a restaurant for the food. Sometimes, the atmosphere wins you over. And often, the friendly faces serving your dinner bring you back again. The Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston won me over with all three — food, atmosphere, and service.

And if you’re looking for adventure and thinking about changing careers, read Erin’s book. Oyster farming might just be for you.

Have you eaten at the Island Creek Oyster Bar? Got other tips for great seafood in Boston?

Image Credit: Mary Gerush

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