A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine suggested that we go out to check out Oyster House, formerly known as the Sansom Street Oyster House. Ever since moving to Philadelphia, I always wanted to try this place. Being from New Orleans, an oyster house seemed like it would be the perfect fit. Recently, the Sansom Street Oyster House was bought back by its original owners, the Mink Family, who began their concept of the oyster house in 1976 after operating the original Philly oyster house, Kelly's on Mole Street since 1947. With much experience and a clear concept, the Sansom Street Oyster House successfully was operated by the Mink family up until 2000 but they are back! 10 years later, the Mink family, has created a fresh take on the classic oyster house offering classic seafood with a modern spin.
I was so excited on a mundane Tuesday to be heading out to dinner that evening with a great friend of mine, Holly, who also appreciates good food like I do. She kept reminding me that we needed to go on a Tuesday as there would be some kind of special. Not really knowing what the special would be, I agreed - after all, a night with a dinner special is better than no special at all. We exited from the cab in front of the chic, modern Oyster House. Upon walking through the entrance, I was hit with one of the most familiar smells, a smell that reminds me of childhood and my hometown. The smell of freshly boiled seafood brought me right back home to New Orleans. Literally this smell captured the feeling of a warm summer day in New Orleans sitting on the lawn at a picnic table covered in newspaper dismantling crawfish for hours with family. For me personally, I could not have had a better first impression of Oyster House. As we were seated, I noticed tables covered in newspaper with giant bowls of seafood and knew immediately that we had to order whatever that was.
Cool grey tones fill this chic restaurant with walls covered in collections of oyster dishes combined with a warmth from rustic dark wood tables. A large square bar sits practically in the center of this large open space. While examining the menu, I started with a dirty martini, which was so outstanding that I had another one before the night was finished. There was much discussion over whether or not to try the raw oysters. I, a New Orleans girl born and raised, had never tried a raw oyster. In fact it took me quite a while in life to try all kinds of seafood. It wasn't until I went to a tasting at Mother's Restaurant in New Orleans shortly after college that I had a fried oyster. Ever since then, fried oysters and oyster po'boys are first on my list when I return to my hometown. Before this evening at Oyster House, I had never tasted a raw oyster or a mussel. Needless to say, we ordered the raw oysters. With a tinge of cocktail sauce and squeeze of lemon juice, these salty and fresh oysters were incredibly refreshing and tasty. I couldn't believe what all the fuss was about. What was behind the big fear of eating raw oysters? With the good advice from my friend to actually bite into the oyster and not try to shoot it, I found this little pearl from the ocean to be quite outstanding and I am ready for more.
After the adventurous raw oyster app, we moved on to a sampler of roasted oysters which included "Oysters Rockefeller-spinach, pernod, herb butter", "Oysters Marrakesh-preserved lemon and ginger breadcrumbs", and "Oysters Toscana-garlic parsley butter, lardo". The tastiest by far were the "Oysters Marrakesh"- something about the crispy ginger bite on top of the roasted oyster made for an unforgettable dish. The Toscana was also incredibly delicious with its garlicky, savory parsley butter. The "Oysters Rockefeller" were slightly disappointing as this was a dish that I have enjoyed many a time at Antoine's in New Orleans - nothing compares.
Next came the main course, the "Dump", the Tuesday night dinner special for two. Our table got covered up with newspaper (unfortunately not the Times Picayune). I guess the New York Times did the trick. In a giant heavy duty bowl the waitress dumped a large boiled portion of oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp, crab, kielbasa and potatoes. We ripped through this bowl in no time. Every bite was phenomenal with the perfect balance of spice. The mussels turned out to be my favorite while the oysters and shrimp came in at a close second. I would recommend the "Dump" dinner to anyone. The other menu items look out of this world as well. Next time, I must try one of the "Small Plates" like the "Southern Fried Oysters with chicken salad" or perhaps the "Sauteed Mussels-roasted fennel, leeks and garlic, tarragon". For the "Large Plates", on the top of my list are "Sauteed Soft Shell Crabs-warm fregola salad, arugula, spring onions, romesco", "Lobster Roll-New England style with hand cut fries" and "Seared Scallops-smashed sunchokes, English peas and shoots, roasted lemon". For the meat eaters out there, you can sample the "OH Burger-grass fed beef, blue cheese, fried oyster, grilled onions with hand cut fries".
Oyster House does not only offer dinner but also lunch, midday and brunch menus. For brunch, I am highly intrigued by "Oyster Scrapple - 2 sunny side eggs, horseradish creme fraiche, cocktail sauce" and of course "Shrimp and Grits - poached eggs, spicy shrimp sauce". Oyster House does serve dessert as well but if you are still hungry, then I suggest eating more oysters! When my New Orleans family and friends are in town, we are definitely making a stop at Oyster House but I look forward to another "Dump" night even sooner.
1516 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Monday - Saturday
11:30am - 11pm