Philadelphia: Aw, Shucks, Oysters & More

Some like it raw. That’s the attraction at Philadelphia’s Oyster House, where you can sling back a Manhattan, slurp down a Cape May salt oyster, and watch shuckers at work.

Sam Mink, 35, has transformed his father’s landmark restaurant, Sansom Street Oyster House, stripping the walls and updating the menu. A third generation restaurateur, Mink worked his way up in the family biz, literally.

“When I was five, my Dad put me on a milk crate in the restaurant’s basement to make cole slaw,” he says. “As I grew older, I moved up to pantry, then line cook.”

Ironically, it was Mink’s stint working at San Francisco’s trendy Zuni Café that inspired him to return to Philly for his restaurant debut.

“California cuisine is about simple, seasonal, sustainable food and that’s what we are doing at The Oyster House,” he says.

Keeping it simple also applies to the décor. Exposed brick walls, reclaimed hardwood floors and block tables. The action is at the two marble- topped bars where the drinks pair well with shellfish. “You don’t want to wash down clams with a pina colada,” quips Mink.

Photos by Jason Varney

Although the menu has a contemporary spin, right down to “less mayonnaise” in the cole slaw, Mink has wisely held onto family recipes for clam chowder and cocktail sauce.

Another nod to the past are the vintage oyster plates and the antique white glass cocktail rail salvaged from Mink’s grandfather’s famed restaurant, Kelly’s on Mole Street, which was located around the corner and closed in 1969. Kelly’s was just one of many oyster houses that once filled the streets of Philadelphia.

In addition to a rotating variety of oysters and clams, Chef Andy Kitko’s menu features comfort seafood,  such as New England Lobster Rolls, shrimp cocktail and whole fish platters. Carnivores can sink their teeth into an incredible “carpetbagger style” burger stuffed with, what else? oysters.

New England Clam Bake, Lobster Boils and family style seating at farmhouse tables are available for private parties. Hungering for your own personal stimulus package? Check out the Happy Hour specials: $1 Oysters of the Day, $3 beers and $5 wines.  

And, this Saturday, April 21, join in the fun for the restaurant’s Third Annual Oyster Shucking Competition!

3 comments for “Philadelphia: Aw, Shucks, Oysters & More

  1. PhillyCPA
    April 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Stacia, you’ve made me want to go to the Oyster House. That’s the surest test of fine writing.

  2. Laney234
    April 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    The display of oyster plates alone is enough to make the trip memorable. Even more so — your description of the treats and happy hour specials. I’m salivating, Delaney.

  3. Dick Brooke
    July 16, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    In 1995 I took law students from the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby to Philadelphia for the International Jessup Law Moot in March (as I remember). The six of us stayed at the Waltham (sp?) Hotel which was very close to the Sansom St Oyster Bar. A few of my students and I had lunch there every day around 130 or 2. The Ace oyster Shucker was called Jim and he was uncanny (working alone) and making sure everyone was taken in turn with perfectly shucked oysters that filled the mouth as much as much as the heart.. The oysters (with the salubrious name of Ocean Beach) were the best I ever had! All with a squirt of lemon and a bottle of Sam Adams beer. I ate a vast numbers of these crustacians and one day when the oyster bar

    was quiet Jim the oyster shucker and “Pinks” were chasing each other laughing out loud while I was cleaning up with equal good cheer the remaining oysters in front of us. It was a most memorable event for my students and I and I am delighted that the Sansom Street Oyster Bar continues!


    Dick Brooke

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