Dining Room, Oyster Bar + Institution: Inside Shaw’s Crab House

Dining Room, Oyster Bar & Institution: Inside Shaw's Crab House

“Either you’re an oyster bar guest or a dining room guest,” says John Gurgone, General Manager at Shaw’s Crab House.

Shaw’s is the 31-year-old Chicago institution known for its simply steamed seafood, and as John points out, the restaurant offers two distinctive but equally iconic experiences. On one hand, there’s the dining room: 330 seats, white tablecloths, 17 servers at a given time, reservations strongly recommended. This is where tourists come in after architectural tours and where locals gather for business lunches or to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.

The oyster bar is a separate room entirely, with around 95 seats available exclusively for walk-ins — a mix of bar seats, high-tops, and casual wood tables. Oysters, predictably, are the main event: the centerpiece of the room is an oyster shucking station, where at any given time 12 varieties are served (six East Coast, six West Coast).

Otherwise, the menus are largely the same, but it’s the vibrant atmosphere that sets it apart: a live band plays jazz and blues music every Sunday through Thursday. Here’s how the two spaces work together. Continue Reading

‘Rhode’ Trip: Rhode Island Oysters + Where to Order Them This Summer #savortheroad

In our 2015 Summer Road Trip Restaurant Guide, we happily highlighted must-stop restaurants in Newport and Providence, Rhode Island. Today, we’re happy to return to the region as Michelle Seekamp looks at how local aquaculture is changing the culinary landscape there with this deep dive into Rhode Island oysters and where to order them, in honor of National Oyster Day!

Oyster panorama

Summer in New England brings to mind warm days, cool ocean breezes, and fresh seafood served dockside. And nothing is fresher than an oyster shucked with a shandy in hand and served on a bed of crushed ice, feet from the salt pond where it was harvested.

The Ocean State, with its more than 400 miles of rocky coastline, has a long history of oyster cultivation dating back to the native tribes that first inhabited the area. Known for fine briney selections that grow in calm shallow waters, the state’s oyster bounty can be found in restaurants coast to coast. If you’re an oyster connoisseur, chances are you’ve tasted a Rhode Island oyster.

In recent years, there has been a boom in local aquaculture. The acreage of oyster farms along Rhode Island’s coasts and its great salt ponds have nearly doubled in the last five years. This is thanks, in large part, to the upcrop of small independent farmers cultivating just a few acres and delivering extra special varieties with unique flavors and notes. From the crisp and bright Matunucks of Potters Pond, to the full-bodied Moonstones of Point Judith, and the Watch Hills of Winnipaug Pond in Westerly at the southernmost tip of the Ocean State, there is a wide variety of unique oyster offerings being cultivated by modest teams of dedicated oystermen.


Walrus and Carpenter Oysters on Ninigret Pond in Rhode Island is one of these small, low-impact farms that have sprung up. Known for producing eastern oysters that are sweet and briney with a buttery finish,  they have been described by some as “diving into the ocean and coming up for a breath of fresh air.” Count us in!

Jules Opton-Himmel is a trained marine biologist who started Walrus and Carpenter Oysters six years ago and has since seen his farm prosper, a happy by-product of the close relationships he’s built with local restaurateurs. “We are able to sell 100% of our oysters locally during the summer,” he says. “In fact, we can’t even keep up with the demand.” All of his oysters are harvested and delivered to restaurants on the same day and usually end up being served fresh that evening, giving his business and the restaurants he supplies an advantage.

a group wades through the salt pond at Walrus and Carpenter

“We have a very close relationship with chefs. We want them to come here, bring their staff, and taste the oysters,” says Opton-Himmel. “We want them to be able to talk more knowledgeably about the product.” That’s why Walrus and Carpenter hosts an educational dinner series at which local culinary professionals, as well as the public, can come to learn about raising and harvesting oysters.

The Dorrance, a popular Rhode Island restaurant nestled in a historic building in the heart of Providence’s Downcity District, is taking advantage of this series and the local aquaculture boom to provide an extra special fresh seafood experience to their guests. Working closely with Opton-Himmel, the staff of The Dorrance went to the salt pond to learn about the cultivation of these special oysters and the wide spectrum of spectacular wine pairings available to enhance their flavor. The Dorrance staff shucked oysters fresh from the water and slurped them back with a splash of more than a dozen European wines. “It was an incredible opportunity to blur the lines between Jules’s Rhody-fresh oysters and the white and rosé wines of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Austria,” says Regina Curran-Lester, co-owner of the Dorrance.Continue Reading

10 Things You Need to Know About Top Chef Seattle Episode 8

Bart Vandaele had the great misfortune of being paired with Josie in this week’s Elimination Challenge.

Does anyone else have a bit of a holiday hangover? Too much punch? Too many cookies? Well, I’m sad to report that last night’s episode of Top Chef Seattle won’t do much to settle your stomach, thanks to the awful antics of season 2 leftover Josie.

1. It’s pretty clear that everyone is hoping that The Josie Show is cancelled very soon.

2. In the restaurant business, if you call someone an —hole, it is forgotten the next day. Except when it isn’t.

3. Oysters don’t grow in Hawaii.

4. John Tesar grew up the son of a bayman on Long Island’s east end.

5. I cannot shuck oysters to save my life.

Thanks to Josie, John Tesar is in no way the most hated cheftestant on Top Chef.

6. Drago’s oysters are garlicky-buttery-cheesey awesomeness. I could probably consume 50 of them in one sitting.

7. Josie claims she’s been an athlete her whole life, which seems implausible.

8. Josie’s remarks to Micah about his sexuality were terrible and inexcusable.

9. I’m no Buddhist, but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to say “Namaste, b-tches.”

10. When you’re at judges’ table, it is best to discuss your food and your food alone, Sheldon. Do not take any lessons from CJ. Ever.

Valentine’s Day 2010: Put a Fork in It!

Valentines-Day-2010-Put-a-Fork-In-ItValentine’s Day 2010 is just a fond (I hope!) memory by now. I hope yours was as fun as mine (I dined at SHO Shaun Hergatt and had a delightful Valentine’s Day dinner!). I didn’t get there in a limo, but some lucky Tweeps had that option, thanks to winning the OpenTable Valentine’s Day Limo Twitter Giveaway, sponsored by Limos.com. Congratulations to all our winners!

One of the most popular eateries for Valentine’s Day, according to your tweets in response to Monday’s query, was — surprise! — The Melting Pot. On Tuesday, when we asked who your celebrity dream date is, the most popular celebs were actors Halle Berry and Tyrese. Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds took second place. Angelina Jolie may have Brad Pitt, but more of you want to dine with his first wife, Jennifer Aniston. The “Jersey Shore” cast proved popular, with JWoww, The Situation, and DJ Pauly D getting some love from OpenTable diners (but not, alas, Snookie. Poor Snickers!) Your most random dream dates? “Golden Girl” Bea Arthur and hockey great Gordie Howe. Someone chose reality-TV-star-turned-punchline Jon Gosselin. Let’s hope it was in jest.

In terms of your favorite food to eat on Valentine’s Day, your tweets told us that it was a bad day to be a cow or a lobster, as surf and turf was one of top most romantic dishes. OpenTable diners are clearly chocoholics as chocolate, though, took first place. Strawberries dipped in chocolate were also wildly popular. Back on the savory side, a stand-alone steak, pasta, oysters, and fondue were also all the rage. The sweetest most romantic food-related tweet I saw? A diner tweeted, “Anything healthy so we can live a long life together.”

When we asked you to tweet your favorite romantic movie on Thursday, Love Actually was the winner — but just by one vote. The Notebook came in second. Other picks included Casablanca, Ghost, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, and The Princess Bride. Offbeat tweets highlighted Better Off Dead, The Empire Strikes Back, and Shaun of the Dead (Nothing says romance like zombies, really.). Cutest tweets: Lady and the Tramp got two votes. That pasta-sharing scene gets me every time I see it, and, clearly, I’m not alone. It also makes me want to eat spaghetti every time I see it.

Finally, the most romantic city, according to your tweets, is — shocker! — Paris. New York bumped San Francisco to third place, by just a single tweet. Florence and Venice, Italy, each got a lot of love as did Charleston. Unique suggestions included Bruges, Pittsburgh, and Warsaw.

Congratulations again to our winners, and thanks to Limos.com and for all your terrific tweets. If you’re still seeking more romance until next Valentine’s Day, check out the Top 50 Most Romantic Restaurants, according to the 2010 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Awards.