By: Alexandra Greeley
Busy Wisconsin Avenue, which is near the National Cathedral, is a restaurant hotspot with many cuisines that beckon. For seafood lovers—well, for anyone who yearns for top-notch seafood (besides oysters) and assorted meat-and-veggie offerings—the go-to destination is The Grilled Oyster Co. The restaurant is located at 3701 Newark St NW.
This casual/classy destination offers not only a lengthy menu for foods and drinks, but a chatty happy hour and a weekend brunch menu that stars scallops, salmon Benedict, and lobster rolls. It also serves Stone Fruit Sangria and a cocktail churned up with lump crab meat and Old Bay Rum. Indeed, it’s hard to ignore such flashy food and drinks.
Rick and Valerie Dugan own The Grilled Oyster Co. restaurant. In fact, they have another restaurant in Potomac, Maryland. But with a Potomac restaurant thriving for six past years, why move into the District?
“I grew up in this area,” Valerie said. “And my husband grew up nearby. Plus, the redevelopment in this area has been so good.” The Dugans did face local restaurant competition, such as the nearby Cactus Cantina. But she clarified that The Grilled Oyster is private, not corporate-owned. In addition, the couple support local breweries and Eastern Shore fishermen.
As ardent sailors, the couple are friends with many local fishermen, so focusing on seafood—particularly oysters—they started grilling their own oysters. “It was not a big thing,” Valerie said.
But the couple found that installing a complete seafood menu plus pastas, beef, chicken, and even trendy tacos and salads became a big customer draw.
As it turns out, Valerie said, the most popular dish is the jumbo lump crab cake. “Ours is the best in the city,” she added, with the lobster roll coming in a close second. Of course, the grilled oysters served up in six different styles are also top sellers.
The flavor choices include Drunken, Rick’s, Island, Rockefeller, Grilled Sampler, and three Crabby Oysters. “We get oysters in local waters, though not south beyond Virginia. But we do go up north towards Canada,” Valerie said.
Surprisingly, for a seafood restaurant, the kitchen’s Rosemary Chicken has been on the menu for six years at the original Grilled Oyster and two years at the D.C. location. “People find it a comfort food,” Valerie said.
“It comes covered with a rosemary butter sauce and a side of mashed potatoes.” Other go-to favorites are the fish tacos, which include Southwest salmon and spicy shrimp tacos, on the regular and bar menus.
On the weekend brunch menu, the star of the show is the lobster hash. But other offerings include a Maine-to-Maryland lobster roll, huevos rancheros (no seafood here!), and blueberry-glazed stuffed French toast.
And what are Valerie’s favorites? “I love almost everything,” she said, “but especially the crab cakes made with Maryland crabmeat. And the fried oysters, the excellent cream of crab soup, burgers, or the Maine Lobster Cobb Salad.”
Obviously, the setting and the menu are big draws. But as Valerie pointed out, all ingredients are fresh, never frozen, or microwaved. The crackers for the soups and the tasty lavash breads are made in-house. And the potatoes for the fries are hand-cut.
Such detail to service and perfection, plus its flashy bar area and comfy outdoor seating, explain why The Grilled Oyster Co. draws such big crowds. The restaurant’s service also explains why it won the Best New Restaurant in the Bethesda Magazine in 2014.
Furthermore, the restaurant will feature Oyster Stew on it’s fall menu. In fact, The Grilled Oyster Co. shared the stew’s ingredients and recipe. “It’s truly delicious,” Valerie said.
- 2 ounces unsalted butter
- 2 regular-size potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 each large celery stalks, diced
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 8 large Chesapeake shucked oysters and juice
- 1/4 cup dry vermouth
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- Pinch Old Bay seasoning
First, you must heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Next, add the potatoes, carrots, celery, and thyme and stir together. Add the oyster juice and vermouth, and cook it until the vegetables are tender. Next, add the heavy cream and oysters, and cook for about four minutes. Lastly, garnish the stew with Old Bay Seasoning. Bon appétit!
For more information about The Grilled Oyster Co., call 202-362-1719.