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.
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!