by Andra Zeppelin
Cherry Creek North just got groovier with this classic oyster bar.
"I have wanted to open an oyster bar for a very long time," said manager Sean Huggard, a chef and restaurateur who made Denver his home for the last decade. An East Coaster, Huggard knew that the only way to make the goal a reality and maintain the standards that he grew up with was to partner with someone who had first dibs on great oysters, clams, and more.
Enter Chris Quartuccio, who is not only bringing the goods but also the name of the new restaurant. A Long Island oyster diver and partner at Blue Island Oyster Bar, Quartuccio is the founder of twenty year old Blue Island Oyster Company. His operation is the number one oyster and clam distributor in the New York area and has expanded to restaurants in Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston.
The Cherry Creek North restaurant Huggard, Quartuccio, and their partners created brings the highest quality seafood in a casual and laid-back environment. Chef Dj Nagle, formerly of Humboldt, created a menu that is interesting and approachable, comforting and challenging at the same time. There is something for everyone from burgers to salads, but the highlights center around the classic and modern East Coast comfort food: the stuffie, the chowder, the lobster and crab risotto, and the crispy black cod, among others.
But if you only get the oysters and clams, you will still leave happy. Some nine rotating oysters will be available on a daily basis from the signature Blue Island No. 9, a farmed Long Island briny oyster with a smooth finish, to the well-marketed Naked Cowboy, a meaty wild oyster diver-harvested in the Great South Bay. Another highlight is the Shibumi oyster, a Puget Sound creation grown using tidal tumbling techniques to yield deeply cupped oysters that have a distinctive smoky finish.
The space, created by Arch11, is contemporary and inviting with sea-related elements throughout from the entrance that is meant to remember the interior of an oyster shell. There is an attractive mural of oyster divers behind the bar, a large rendering of the Great South Bay lines, light fixtures that are reminiscent of the under-water world, and real oyster-harvesting baskets in which the goods are displayed. The dominating oar installation over the bar adds another dimension to the space.
Seating for up to 100 guests varies from banquette tables along the west wall to counter seats around the oyster bar and a posh booth right by the door. The restaurant opens tonight for dinner and will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week.