‘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

Get Clued In: Secret Spotlight Hints Are Live for This Week’s Offers

The clever scribes on the OpenTable Spotlight team are at it again. They’ve rounded up a bunch of clues — along with some hunger-inducing photos — to help you figure out where our Spotlight will enable you to save. Offers arrive in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco on Tuesday, while Atlanta, Boston/New England, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. will be available for purchase on Wednesday. And, just like last week, tune in for a bonus round of offers on Thursday.

Use these clues and droolworthy pics to help make your best guesses, on the OpenTable Spotlight boards or on Facebook!

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Atlanta: Family owned and operated, this beloved steakhouse beckons one and all to come enjoy the best steaks in Decatur.

Boston/New England: Set along Rhode Island’s stunning Providence Riverwalk, this popular restaurant serves world-class global cuisine to locals and visitors alike.

Chicago: Enjoy the warm atmosphere at this French gastro bistro on North Lincoln Avenue. Named in honor of the owner’s two children, this eatery blends contemporary French cuisine with an accessible American sensibility.

Denver: Enjoy gourmet grill fare at this Washington Park hotspot. Be sure to stop by on a Thursday or Saturday to enjoy the live music and vibrant crowd!

Los Angeles: Serving up group friendly tapas-style dishes, this Santa Monica restaurant creates a perfect fusion of East and West in every bite!

New York: Sip Merlot and people-watch at this award-winning international wine bar and American bistro in Midtown.

Philadelphia: A charming wine bar in Wilmington, Delaware, this eatery serves delectable small plates to pair with over 425 wines and 100-plus craft beers.

San Francisco: This historic restaurant in San Francisco’s Little Italy proudly holds the title of “Oldest Italian Restaurant in America.”

Washington, D.C.: A vibrant downtown eatery, this French-influenced café is the perfect escape from DC’s bustling business district restaurants.