"Countless chefs around the country" are seeing oysters as their oyster, reports Brett Anderson in The New York Times (5/7/14). "To me, oysters are one of those perfect foods," says Michael Cimarusti, co-owner of Connie & Ted’s in LA. "Connie & Ted’s is really a celebration of American seafood," he adds. "It just seemed like it was perfectly right to have a big oyster bar and make oysters a big focus of what we do." His is one of many restaurants "that start with the humble oyster bar and take it in fresh directions."
The oyster-bar allure is nothing new, of course: Boston’s Union Oyster House was founded in 1826. The concept’s "newfound popularity" is partly because of the oyster’s "year-round availability." "We had a doubling of oyster production in the last five years," says Bob Rheault of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association. This apparently has "inspired restaurants with much bigger budgets and aspirations that see the tradition not as a fixed template but as an opportunity to reinvent."
At Fishing With Dynamite in Manhattan Beach, for example, where "the oyster bar dominates the tiny 33-seat space," it’s about combining "the East Coast love of seafood with the West Coast vibe," says chef David LeFevre. This involves Mexican and Southeast Asian influences. Despite such twists, many of the new oyster bars take traditional design cues, specifically, "the beauty of hard surfaces," with plenty of "marble, brand tile and formica" in the mix, like at Kimball House, near Atlanta.