Are we harder on imports than local joints? Do we have higher standards for chains popping down from NYC or sliding over from LA? Sometimes, I think so. D.C. has a quality homegrown food scene and I think we’re protective of it. If a stranger is going to move into town and take up the time and money we could be spending at local restaurants, it has to be good. We don’t want sad leftovers or corporate love letters, if you’re going to impress us, you really have to impress us.
But what about local chains? What about restaurants and bars and fast casual spots that make the hop, skip and jump from Maryland or Virginia? We might all be sworn mortal enemies when we’re on the beltway together, but what about at the table? If we’re talking about the stupidly good happy hour at NoMa’s King Street Oyster (hailing all the way from Northern Virginia), I think we can let that very specific sibling rivalry slide.
Let’s talk about that happy hour. King Street Oyster offers lunch and brunch and all of that important stuff, but if you’re going, you’ll probably be going for happy hour. Featuring $1 oysters, $5 food and $5 drinks, it can’t be beat. On top of that, happy hour runs single every day from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., plus there’s a late night happy hour from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. from Monday to Thursday. If you find yourself in NoMa during that window and you don’t stop by for a half a dozen oysters (or a dozen if you’re me), then you’re basically losing money. That’s just how the math works. You can’t afford not to eat them.
While the happy hour might (read: will) be your starting point at King Street Oyster, there is more to explore. Owner Rick Allison spent some serious time as a chef at Great American Restaurants and D.C.’s very own Old Ebbitt Grill, and in many ways King Street Oyster falls right in that genre. It slings solid American style seafood that will satisfy most of your friends and family. Getting dinner with a bunch of people who have different tastes? From lobster rolls to ceviche to seafood towers, there will be something on the menu for them. And if they don’t like seafood? Point them straight toward the moist and flakey and very adult style chicken fingers. They were one of our favorite dishes on the menu.
If you’re not afraid of seafood, go for the scallop carpaccio with it’s crunchy toasted macadamia nuts and bright ponzu. Tempura fried shrimp bites will delight anyone who is an acolyte of good bar food, the grilled oysters will turn any bivalve dismisser into an outright fan (cheese usually helps) and the mermaid tower (which will run you $74) will satiate any raw bar fiend who is looking for a lobster fix. King Street Oyster bar shines when you’re sharing everything (including the aforementioned lobster rolls and chicken fingers) with a couple of drinks, so if you have company that’s willing to get wild, go for it.
Speaking of drinks, DJ Suan, formerly of The Green Zone, is doing the lord’s work behind the bar. Three Crazy Cat Ladies and the District Rose are sweet (and very drinkable) odes to Suan’s wife, but we couldn’t stop drinking the Peruvian Cloud, an extremely fall twist on a pisco sour. Even if this isn’t on the $5 happy hour drink menu, it’s worth spending the extra cash.
So save up your change and take a trip down (or up) the Red Line. Those $1 oysters are calling you.
King Street Oyster Bar is located at 22 M Street NE.