Local bivalve lovers have lots to be excited about in the flurry of late summer and fall restaurant openings this year: Two oyster bars are on the way to Greater Boston — plus another one early next year — courtesy of some familiar faces.
In Back Bay, chef and restaurateur Michael Serpa is converting his two-and-a-half-year-old Parisian bistro Grand Tour into Little Whale Oyster Bar; the plan is to close the Newbury Street bistro on September 4 and open the seafood spot on September 12.
Serpa is no stranger to seafood restaurants; in fact, Grand Tour — which serves an excellent version of steak frites — is sort of the outlier of the restaurant group, which otherwise has a strong seafood focus. There’s Select Oyster Bar, also in Back Bay, serving high-end seafood dishes with a bit of a Mediterranean feel, and Atlántico in Boston’s South End, which features small plates inspired by the Iberian Peninsula, emphasizing seafood.
Little Whale will join the mix with New England classics: fried clams, clam chowder, lobster rolls (both types: hot and buttered and cold with mayo), and the like, as well as plenty of raw bar options and other dishes showcasing local fish.
To drink, expect wines meant to complement seafood — crisp whites, light reds — as well as some local beers.
Meanwhile in Cambridge’s Inman Square, Will Gilson is opening Puritan Oyster Bar in November next to his restaurant Puritan & Company, utilizing a space that has hosted private events in the past and was briefly Puritan Provisions, a takeout lunch spot and market.
The team has been paying rent on the space for a decade, says Gilson, and drafted a plan to put an oyster bar there about five years ago but shelved it in preparation for the massive undertaking of the group’s trio of Cambridge Crossing restaurants. “Now that we survived what we just did, we are so excited to bring an oyster and raw bar to Inman Square,” says Gilson. “For a decade, we have only had the space to serve one variety of oyster a night. We cannot wait to be able to serve nine more!”
In addition to oysters, the bar and restaurant will serve a seafood-focused menu with dishes like crudo, lobster rolls, smoked fish, and more. Gilson is particularly excited about tuna carpaccio, oyster tartare, and hot buttered lobster toast.
Also on deck but coming a little bit later — currently slated for early 2023 — is a new location of Row 34, opening in Cambridge’s Kendall Square. It’ll be the fourth location for the local seafood gem, which can also be found in Boston’s Fort Point, Burlington, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Conceived as a “workingman’s oyster bar,” the original location (Fort Point) opened nearly a decade ago, then a sibling to the now-closed Island Creek Oyster Bar. The restaurant partnership between the Row 34 and Island Creek teams split up in 2021, but the relationship remains close, with Row 34 continuing to feature oysters from Island Creek in Duxbury.
Row 34 is the kind of restaurant that can support special occasions as well as casual post-work drinks and snacks; the vibe is energetic, the seafood is pristine, and the beer list is creative. The lobster rolls, too, are among the best in town. Stay tuned for updates on an opening timeline, and in the meantime, check out one of the other locations — and the cookbook.
Little Whale will be located at 314 Newbury Street, Boston, serving lunch and dinner daily.
Puritan Oyster Bar will be located at 1164 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, serving dinner daily.
Row 34 will be located at 314 Main Street, Cambridge, serving lunch and dinner daily.