When the Old Ebbitt Grill reopened at its current location in October of 1983, oysters were sold on the half shell. The only oysters served back then were Blue Point oysters, harvested from Long Island Sound off the coast of Connecticut. Shipped in non-descript boxes, these oysters were the norm for all serving oysters in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states.
Oysters were pre-shucked, sometimes days in advance, and left on trays to be served when ordered. Needless to say, the quality of the product offered to our customers was poor. In 1992 with the food safety of oysters making headlines, we decided to stop serving oysters, as it was not worth the risk involved in getting someone sick or worse.
In 1994 Jon Rowley, a self-proclaimed seafood consultant and oyster aficionado, approached us to introduce us to a new breed of oyster growers. While aquaculture was gaining in popularity, it was just the tip of the iceberg for oysters. It is through aquaculture that oysters have made a remarkable comeback. Oysters have gone “boutique” in almost the same way that wine and artisanal cheese have done in this country.
Through more research, Jon’s assistance and hard work on the part of the Old Ebbitt Grill management team, oysters were put back on the menu. Our pledge to provide the best oyster program gave birth to the Oyster Eater’s Bill of Rights. It has proved wildly successful and is now the oyster bar all others are judged against. Since then we have expanded the program to, Clyde’s at Mark Center, Tower Oaks Lodge, Clyde’s of Gallery Place, and Clyde’s of Chevy Chase.
Tune in next time to hear what happened when Tom Meyer said, “Why don’t we throw a party?”