Expectations were high when Portland’s award-winning Eventide Oyster Co. announced at the end of 2016 that it would be opening its first-ever outpost in Boston. The fast-casual version has lived up, serving an even bigger edition of its famous brown butter lobster roll, fresh crudos and oysters, and snacks like nori-dusted potato chips and brown butter soft serve.
The brown butter lobster roll at Eventide Fenway tastes just like the one at the original Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine: gobsmackingly good.
It comes on a Chinese-style steamed bun, which has the mild sweetness of white bread but its own compelling chew. The roll is served warm, the brown butter the lobster is tossed with a richer, deeper substance than the drawn butter that accompanies summer’s steamed lobster. That’s a dish for carefree frolickers. This is a lobster roll for the complex soul: the poet, the self-taught tarot reader, the rucksack traveler. Eating it is contemplative, a Zen koan of the mouth. A bite, and then enlightenment! (It’s still really good with beer.)
Chef-owners Taylor and Wiley met in 2010 in the kitchen of Portland fine-dining spot Hugo’s, which they teamed up with GM-owner Arlin Smith to purchase in 2012, the same year they opened Eventide Oyster Co. next door. Eventide Fenway forgoes the original’s sit-down-restaurant trappings but preserves much of the menu’s winning high/low formula: Take a standard clam-shack recipe, chef it up gently but surely with solid technique and fussy sourcing, then swap out one component (maybe two) with a foodie flourish. The Eventide Cheeseburger ($12) reads as a regular burger. It’s got a griddled patty, American cheese, iceberg lettuce…so far, so good. But then gochujang-tallow mayo, in one fell schmear, tweaks the semiotic signal, dog-whistling to adventurous eaters that someone in the kitchen gets it, that maybe even the non-bedazzled pickled onions will be next-level, too. (They were.) Yet it’s subtle enough not to rattle the gastronomically fearful. A fried-chicken sandwich ($12) came with cabbage and pickles…and maple-sweetened Chinese mustard. And so on.
Sleek and spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows and light blue walls — on approach, you’d swear you were entering the Apple store. Stools and counters overlook bustling Boylston Street; there are also a few longer tables and stools without views. Order from a series of flat screens at the entrance, beneath which a friendly server stands, device at the ready, to take orders. You’ll receive a text when your food is ready. Pick everything up at a rock-walled counter topped with oysters on ice, and then relax: There’s mellow guitar music on the speakers, and you’ll (almost) forget the bustle on the other side of the glass.
After clocking long shifts at Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine, chef Mike Wiley needs a gratifying meal, fast. “It’s a quick and dirty little fried fish sandwich,” he said of this week’s Slow Food Fast contribution, known at the restaurant as the Mike. “I eat it regularly.”
You know you’re headed in the right direction when every Maineiac’s recommendation for his or her favorite raw bar steers you toward the same place. Eventide Oyster Col is the local go-to for briny bivalves. The rotating roster of more than a dozen fresh catches can include Maine favorites such as Flying Point,, Otter Cove, and John’s River Oysters; South of the Border riffs like fluke ceviche with pique de piña (a spicy pineapple flavored vinegar); and homestyle favorites like battered Gulf of Maine hake or a traditional New England clambake overflowing with steamers, lobster and mussels.
Yes, the city’s been a food town for a while, since Eventide rolled in with its 18 varieties of oysters and lobster rolls on steamed Chinese buns, Duckfat got famous for its eponymously fried Maine potatoes, and The Holy Donut revolutionized a breakfast food (get there early, ask for chocolate sea salt).
The exuberant seafood phenom that sets the standard for the modern oyster bar — not only in New England but for all of America. Eventide is no secret: No matter what time of year you arrive, or at what time of day, there will likely be at least a short wait. WHY: Nearly 20 varieties of craggy, pristine oysters from Maine and throughout the region sit piled on ice atop a hollowed-out slab of granite. Their names reflect their geography, etching maps in the mind: Pleasant Bay, John’s River, Basket Island, Dodge Cove. Eat them plain and then dabbed with accompaniments both classic (red wine mignonette) and newfangled (ices made from horseradish or kimchi). Trust that blackboard specials like fish crudos and octopus terrine will deliver, though the marquee remains the signature lobster roll umami-blasted by an unlikely triumvirate: browned butter, dried milk powder, and lemon. — B.A.
Two chefs from Maine received a James Beard Award – a coveted recognition that chefs consider to be the Oscars of the food world – on Monday night.
Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor, chef/co-owners of three Portland restaurants, won the award in the Best Chef: Northeast category.
Along with their manager, Arlin Smith, Wiley and Taylor own and operate Eventide Oyster Co., The Honey Paw and Hugo’s. This was their third nomination. They were finalists last year.
And, of course, not every New Englander is married to the classics. Bob’s Clam Hut owner Michael Landgarten, for one, fancies the lobster on a steamed bun at Portland’s Eventide Oyster Co. and the lobster sliders on biscuits at Kittery’s Robert’s Maine Grill almost as much as his own.
Chefs/co-owners of Eventide Oyster Co. Andrew Taylor, 36, and Mike Wiley, 35, recently won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast for their wildly popular eatery in Portland, Maine and they’re set to open a Boston outpost in Fenway in August. The pair met as colleagues at Hugo’s in Portland, which they jointly purchased in 2012. Their company, Big Tree Hospitality, also operates the Honey Paw, an Asian-inflected restaurant, as well as a commissary, Big Tree Foods, in Biddeford, Maine.
With the restaurants Hugo’s, Eventide and Honey Paw, the partners of Big Tree Hospitality have achieved remarkable success. This week we speak with Arlin Smith, Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor about their own stories, winning the 2017 James Beard Award, and what life is like as they expand their business outside of Portland.
At the top of Ms. French’s list of must-visit restaurants was Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland. We grabbed two seats at one end of the concrete bar; an imposing block of granite loaded with oysters on ice occupied the other. The lobster roll, served on steamed bun, diverted us deliciously, but the real star that day were the oysters served on the half shell, accompanied by kimchi, horseradish and Tabasco ices. We tried a half dozen, including the Basket Island and Glidden Point varieties and could have happily whiled away the afternoon at that sunny counter, sipping white wine and slurping up more oysters, but Bar Harbor waited.
One of our most dramatic days of shooting happened in Acadia National Park on blesser-known strip of the northern coast, between Eastern Bay and Frenchman Bay. We set up a traditional beachside clambake among the rock formations known as the Ovens, which are accessible only at low tide and mostly only by kayak. There is no public parking in this corner of the park, but we were guests of Andrew Taylor, whose family has a house here and who, with partners Arlin Smith and Mike Wiley, owns two of Maine’s most acclaimed restaurants, Eventide Oyster and Hugo’s both in Portland.
“If you took nori away from us, we would just be floundering,” says Mike Wiley, chef and co-owner at Eventide Oyster Bar in downtown Portland, Maine. He smiles, a half-quirk that lifts one side of his face, before barreling on. “Nori is a huge part of what we do—especially our nori vinaigrette. We serve dash constantly in one form or another. Seaweed makes its way into many of our broths. We also use seaweed sheets almost like a hot dog casing to hold together various parts of fish—we poach it and it tightens up as it cooks and hydrates. We joke a lot about taking really nice local meat and vegetables and making it taste like gas station food. But we do that because we want that acidity, and a ton of salt and fat and richness.”
While Hugo’s, Eventide Oyster Co. and They Honey Paw have separate storefronts and entrances, they share a single kitchen. Each restaurant has its own line, and there is a larger prep area with a walk-in cooler. All three restaurants share the staff meal, which is served at 3:30 p.m. every day and prepared by multiple people.
“From the beginning, we didn’t want our staff meal to be an afterthought,” says Smith. “When I was working other restaurants, there were days when I would say, “Why did I wait around for this?” The meal was just such a disappointment. It totally defeated the purpose of having a family meal.”
The third time’s a charm. After being named finalists for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Northeast three years in a row, Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor have brought home the prize. The two are chefs and co-owners of three Portland restaurants, Eventide Oyster Co., the Honey Paw, and Hugo’s.
There’s nothing complex about Eventide Oyster Co., but everything they do, they do well. It’s the little things that take Eventide to the next level. For example, the horseradish, kim chee and pickled ginger ices you can get with your oysters. Or the fact that the famous lobster roll is dressed with homemade brown butter or homemade mayo. While the raw bar and crudo are the foundation of the menu, you’d be remiss not to go all out and get the New England Clam Bake, because what’s more New England than that?
It’s perfectly acceptable to take a day trip to Portland for a lobster roll alone, but don’t stop there. Try the fresh crudo and oysters (ten varieties are from Maine) at Eventide Oyster Co., where the chef/owner duo just took home the James Beard award for Best Chef: Northeast.
The owners of Portland’s wildly popular Eventide Oyster Co. are bringing a new casual seafood restaurant to the Fenway this summer. But has Boston reached peak oyster?