Island Creek Oyster Bar: An Oyster's Farm-to-Table Pioneer
Let me confess, if it's not already obvious. I'm not in the business of reviewing restaurants; I just love to share what I love, and what I think you'll love. All the oyster bars I've listed are places where I find significant and special experiences for half shell.
Island Creek Oyster Bar is one of the most special places in the world for oysters.
Nearly four years ago when I moved to Boston, I lived on the corner of Massachusetts and Comm Ave., across from Deuxave (another kind of love), and a 5-10 minute walk from Hotel Commonwealth. The Eastern Standard Restaurant in Hotel Commonwealth is single-handedly responsible for converting me back to loving brunch. After years as a bartender in DC, slinging bottomless mimosas and schlepping home as a slime ball of sap, it really destroyed my breakfast morale. But holy moses, shrimp and grits and craft cocktails at 11AM... I'm back in, I'm back in for good, thanks to that place.
Island Creek is on the left corner of Hotel Commonwealth and has this sparkly allure that exudes from within. I finally did my research months after landing in Boston and learned quickly, to result of reddening cheeks, that this was the town's cornerstone of oyster royalty.
I don't want to say too much about Island Creek's story. One, because Shucked by Erin Murray does it better than I ever could in a post, and two, I'd rather share a personal experience about them in the future.
I will say that Skip Bennett, Jeremy Sewall, and Garrett Harker were first-class oyster visionaries, who, in my opinion and in that of many others, spear-headed the entire oyster industry's closer connection to consumers. It is part of my inspiration for this website and everything that oysters on the half shell should be; placing better value on what exists through a collaboration of growers, restauranteurs, enthusiasts and consumers.
Aside from the important things about this place like the oysters themselves, the people, the seafood menu overall and the expansive wine list (adding just as much terroir to merroir), there are little things about ICO Bar that make you feel totally immersed into the oyster culture. The first little thing I love is how they've lined the back walls with oyster shells in a replica of cages, so you feel like the farm has been brought to you. Not to mention this kind-of trippy upside-down oyster mural of their actual farm on the far corner wall, which positions you right on the flats if you did a handstand.
My second favorite thing is the smell of sea breeze that transports you straight from Boston to Duxbury for a brief second as you walk in. The mood is fresh and there are plenty of little nooks to wiggle into that take you out of the limelight of the long, glowing bar.
Lastly, and perhaps my most favorite, is how the menu gives credit where credit is damn due. The raw menu is this little fold-out book of goodness, and as thoughtful as how it would feel to have a sommelier describing a bottle's vintners. The name of the oyster, the place, AND the farmer is listed and categorized by what's local to Island Creek, what's New England, and featured oysters from their friends. Their staff begin probing for what you like before you even have to ask, and off you go, immersed into a deeper, richer experience.
Holler if you'd like to join me sometime for some halfshell one weekend. And thank you, Island Creek, for being experts; for caring, collaboration and sharing.