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The Oysters you eat at the Oyster Bar today, last night slept in Samish Bay

Samish Bay Oysters

A favorite saying around here, “The oysters you eat at the Oyster Bar today, last night slept in Samish Bay” has it’s roots in the history of the region.

The staff of the Taylor Shellfish Samish Island Farm regard their work as similar to their land based contemporaries, as farmers. The bay has been producing shellfish since the early part of the last century. Many of the harvesting practices are unchanged over time. Oysters are still hand-sorted, washed, and bagged by on site staff. The work is done at low tide, which, during the winter, is often in the middle of the night.

Oyster farming is hard, physical labor, in cold conditions. But the people who stick with it love it, just as we love what their labor produces.

A long standing tradition, fresh shellfish is sold on-site at the retail location along with charcoal for those who desire a beachfront picnic, barbecuing beside a colorful pile of oyster shells. The farm produces oysters, clams, mussels, geoduck and even local seasonal Dungeness Crab.

According to Taylor Shellfish President Bill Taylor, the demand for shellfish is on the rise. “We believe that demand for shellfish is going to grow both domestically and internationally. We see markets continue to be strong, demand typically outstrips supply” he told undercurrentnews.com.

Taylor Shellfish farms produces 60 million pounds of Oysters annually, 4-5 million pounds of clams, 1.2-1.5 million pounds of mussels and 700,000-800,000 lbs of geoduck across both the US and Canada.

According to the Governor of Washington’s Office, the state’s commercial shellfish growers employ about 2,700 people and contributed $184 million to the state’s economy in 2010.

Samish Bay itself is ground zero for expansion in the industry. The Washington Shellfish Initiative, initiated by Governor Jay Inslee, in concert with the Puget Sound Partnership, is in the second phase of a plan to add 10,800 acres to the region for shellfish harvesting by 2020, 4,000 of which are in Samish Bay.

Currently, a large portion of prime harvesting area in Samish Bay face random bouts of pollution (usually after heavy rainfall) which make them unsuitable for production. This is due to factors in the Samish River watershed-farms and livestock, manure-based fertilizer, failing of overloaded septic systems, even dog poop in the backyard.

20 government agencies are involved in monitoring the water level, and sampling shellfish from the bay to ensure that what consumers are eating is safe. We’re proud of or neighbors, the farmers and people of Bow who are banding together to modernize farming practices, upgrade systems, and pitch in as a community to improve a unique part of our heritage.

Here’s to enjoying shellfish for generations to come!

Valentines Day

Valentines Day Restaurant in Bellingham

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching!

For some, this is a reason to panic. You’ve gotta make plans for you and the apple of your eye. Flowers? Gifts? Dinner? With so many options, we’d like to help you simplify your life.

How, may you ask?

Reservations, that’s how!

We’re currently taking reservations for Valentine’s Day! Just a short drive from Bellingham, the Oyster Bar is the premier dining experience in Northwest Washington

Imagine, a romantic, candle-lit meal, with a glorious view of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands. Appetizers like Cascadia Mushroom Gnocchi. An award winning wine cellar. The freshest seafood and most delectable flavors. Deserts such as Frangelico Creme Brulee and Pear Tart Tatin! Prepare to have a happy palate.

Make this a Valentine’s day you’ll remember for a long time. If you’re in Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, or Snohomish county, we’re within an hour drive.

We also have gift cards, if you’re interested in encouraging your favorite couple to take a romantic evening.

Make a Reservation

To make a reservation, please call the restaurant at (360) 766-6185. We’re open from 11:30 am – 10 pm. Don’t put this off, we fill up fast, and we’d love to see you for this special day!

And what if you’re too late for the big V – day itself? Well, you can always come in the day before, or the day after. Your night will be just as special, just as romantic, and just as memorable.

Live Maine Lobster!

(Warning: The following blog post will create an undeniable craving for all things lobster. Read at your own risk.)

You may have seen our live Maine lobster offerings on our social media feeds lately. During the month of January, our lobster entree special includes a half or whole lobster served with prime top sirloin steak, prime filet mignon steak, or with wild gulf prawns. (Is your mouth watering yet?) In addition to our special lobster entree, we are offering 5 small plates all featuring mouth-watering lobster. For anyone that has wanted to try lobster, these small plates are affordable and PACKED with lobster flavor. (We don’t skimp on the lobster, either.) For those with an established love for lobster, you’ll want to try all plates especially the ice cream.

Our small plate lobster specials include:

Lobster RavioliLobster Ravioli: served with mascarpone, arugula pesto, toasted pine nuts, brown butter, and shallots.

Lobster BisqueLobster Bisque: with goat cheese gougere and fresh chives.

Lobster Specials The Oyster BarLobster Carpaccio Salad: served with thin slices of lobster, avocado, mango, passion fruit, and vanilla bean vinaigrette.

Lobster Mac & CheeseLobster Mac and Cheese: with truffle cream, lemon powder, brown butter, and cookie crumble.

And

Lobster Ice Cream The Oyster BarLobster Ice Cream: lobster infused cream, lemon powder, brown butter, and cookie crumble. (This is a MUST try.)

For pricing information, please visit our lobster specials menu.

To help with the winter chills, we’ve always got our fireplace going and invite our guests to enjoy a nice fireside meal.

The sun is setting from 4-5 pm directly over Samish Island, it makes for a stunning spectacle to close out the day, and complements your feast.

Fish: A Cure for the Winter Blues

Fish Helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder

It is estimated that about 14% of the US population report feeling a little down and lethargic during the winter months, and an additional 6% suffer from the more acute Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Bellingham tops out the list of cities in the continental United States with populations of over 50,000 which get the least amount of sunlight, and we all know the Pacific Northwest winter can get a little gloomy. No one likes getting up when it’s dark and going to work, only to finish the work day and be in the dark… again. However, there are some interesting options out there to fight the winter blues. We can take some cues from another group of people who seem to be doing quite well, despite living on the same parallel as even darker Alaska: the Icelanders.

In Iceland, the winter is even darker than our own and yet, the locals have little to no Seasonal Affective Disorder! Scientists and nutritionists who examined this phenomenon found that Icelanders have one highest per-capita fish consumption rates in the world. They eat, on average, more than four times as much fish as do Americans.

So what is in fish that helps prevent seasonal blues, or even SAD? Omega 3’s and vitamin D! Omega 3 fats have a critical role in brain health and documented effects on mood stabilization and anti-depression.

Omega 3’s are found in “fatty fish” such as salmon, trout, herring, and sardines. 3 ounces of Salmon per day provides a day’s worth of essential fat! Other seafoods, such as shrimp and tuna also have good fats and some nutritionists recommend at least two seafood meals per week.

In addition to being an excellent source of Omega 3’s, fish are also the top food source for vitamin D, which our bodies are able to make when exposed to the sun. During dark winter months, we are not only seeing less of the sun, we’re also more often indoors, so opportunities for our bodies to create vitamin D are reduced.

After several weeks of this, we will have depleted the stores of vitamin D, and our mood may be affected! This is where fish can some to the rescue yet again—the 3 ounce piece of salmon we mentioned earlier? It also provides your full daily value of vitamin D.

So we hope that you’ll all be sure to get out and get some exercise, make sure you catch some sun rays, and of course, eat your fish!

Supporting Our Working Waterfront

The Value of Bellingham’s Waterfront

At the end of September and Start of October, our staff had the distinct pleasure of attending the inaugural Bellingham Seafest, a celebration of our “legacy maritime heritage, bustling working waterfront, internationally-renowned fishing & seafood industries and unsurpassed culinary bounty.”

Needless to say, we owe a great deal of our own success to the largess of the local waters, and we are very supportive of our local fishermen. We thought it would be a great opportunity to draw some attention to the Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County.

With a mission of promoting the “vitality and economic benefits of our working waterfronts for the people of Whatcom County”, the coalition aims to support the continued vitality of the maritime sector, and to conserve the cultural history and economic prosperity the industry creates.

Our region has always had a close relationship to the sea. At one point, in the 1940’s, Bellingham was home to the largest salmon cannery in the world, the Pacific American Fisheries Plant—which, at its peak employed over 5,000 people.

Pacific American Fisheries Plant – Fairhaven WA circa 1930’s

The Port of Bellingham has some great resources for learning about the history of Bellingham and Whatcom County’s waterfronts, and when you look out over Samish Bay from our restaurant, you can see some of Taylor Shellfish Farm’s oyster beds.

Here’s a snapshot of the economic benefits commercial fishing brings to our community (c/o the port of Bellingham):

  • 1,781 direct jobs with an additional 870 induced jobs generated through spending by the direct job holders with other businesses
  • $13.3 million of local purchases by the firms located at the Port’s marinas contributing an additional 165 indirect jobs, for products and services used by the commercial fishing industry.
  • The 1,781 direct job holders earned $94.5 million in wages & salaries.
  • $320 million in revenue from the purchases by the fishing fleet at the Port’s marinas (this does not include the landed value of the fish catch).
  • State and local governments received nearly $16 million of tax revenue from the activity generated by the commercial fishing fleet.

Of course, as a patron of our humble restaurant, you’re also a part of this economic equation. We love supporting our local working waterfront and we thank you for both supporting us, and the brave Fishermen who bring us the bounty of the sea!

Ivory Salmon Special

Ivory Salmon

We recently posted on social media that we were serving a special treat, white (or ivory) salmon. We wanted to take some time to pass along more info on what makes this salmon unique and gives it the flavor profile you’ll come to love.

Alaska King Salmon (C/O www.adfg.alaska.gov) standard and ivory

Alaska King Salmonstandard and ivory (C/O www.adfg.alaska.gov)

The iconic pinkish-orange to deep red color, which is the hallmark of Alaskan Chinook or King Salmon, is always a welcome sight at the dinner table. But, did you know that King’s can have a variety of colors? Their flesh can range from red, to white, to even marbled!

While each color has it’s own texture and flavor profile, White (or Ivory) salmon has become highly desired in high-end restaurants and by discerning cooks, chefs, and foodies because of their buttery-rich flavor and silky texture.

1 in every 20 King Salmon are Ivory, and this phenomenon is the result of genetic characteristics which result in a unique enzyme that allows Ivory salmon to break down carotene. Animals such as fish, shrimp, and even flamingos that are unable to break down carotene have the distinctive red color deposited in their flesh or their feathers.

Carotene giving the flamingo it's characteristic pink hue

The flamingo’s characteristic pink hue comes from Carotene

So, next time you’re at the market, or see Ivory King Salmon on the menu, give it a try! It’s a unique addition to the seafood lover’s experience and one you won’t want to miss.

New Gift Cards!

Oyster Bar Gift Cards

The Oyster Bar now has gift cards!

These are not your standard restaurant gift cards (read: over-sized and on card-stock). Easy to use, these credit card style gift cards are the ideal gift for the foodie on your list.

Perfect to entice your friends from the Seattle area to skip town and come up to Samish Bay, where the sunsets are gorgeous and time slows down just a little bit.

Or, maybe you’ve got a local friend who loves seafood but never seems to make it out to the Oyster Bar. This is your opportunity to give them the nudge they need take some time and savor a delicious meal. We promise, we’ll treat ‘em right!

How to Purchase: call us at (360) 766-6185

Denomination: Any

How you can get them: Pick them up or we’ll mail them to wherever you’d like.

Any other questions? Feel free to call us directly or email info@theoysterbar.net 

Happy Holidays!

Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

AVAILABLE WEDNESDAY (Nov 23rd), THURSDAY (24th) AND FRIDAY (25th)

Featuring

  • Quince Sorbet Intermezzo
  • Pumpkin Souffle
  • Cider Sage Butter Fresh Roasted Turkey Breast
  • Fresh Samish Bay Oyster and Sausage Stuffing
  • Maple Glazed Butternut Squash
  • Roasted Parsnip Mashed Potatoes
  • French Green Beans with Toasted Pecans and a Sherry Vinaigrette

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The History and Types of Oysters in the PNW

The History of PNW Oysters

Seafood, and oysters in particular, are the cornerstone upon which our establishment is built. The Pacific Northwest has always been known for its relationship with the Sea, with the native peoples of the area consuming and utilizing oysters in particular for over 4000 years.

With the arrival of European-American settlers to the Puget Sound area in the 1840’s, a number of natural resource extraction industries emerged, including forestry, mining, fishing and canneries, and of course, oyster farming.

In Washington, the commercial industry started in 1851 to supply the intense demand for oysters generated during the Californian gold rush. Like any heavily farmed stock, oysters benefited from university, federal, and state research which resulted in artificial culture techniques, spat collectors, and oyster hatcheries which work for all species.

Today, Oysters are big business in our state.

Industry Snapshot:

  • Washington produces more oysters than any other state
  • 5 species of oyster are grown here
  • There are over 330 commercial shellfish growers in our state
  • The industry provides over 2,700 jobs
  • Oysters and shellfish generate over $184 million per year in revenue
  • The industry is supported by strong statewide environmental laws, clean water, and good natural habitat for growing oysters.
  • Washington state is the only state in the country that allows for the private ownership of tidelands (other states hold them in trust)

PNW Oyster Species

So you like Oysters? Let’s dig a little deeper. Here is some interesting information about the 5 species of oysters grown here in Washington.

The Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

  • 98% of the oysters grown in WA
  • Can be very diverse in taste, size. The term for oysters adopting the characteristics of their surroundings is “merroir”
  • Came originally from Japan in 1919
  • Often are named for the bay or area from which they came, all taste different based on the micro-system they grew in (this is true of most oysters)

The Olympia Oyster (Ostrea lurida)

  • Native oyster to Washington state
  • Generally smaller (size of a postage stamp)
  • “Huge” coppery flavor
  • Nearly disappeared, resurged in the 1980’s

The Kumamoto (Crassostrea sikamea)

  • Arrived in Washington in 1947, as oyster farmers scrambled to re-establish Japanese sources after WWII
  • Water was generally too cold for Kumamotos to reproduce naturally (now they’re grown in trays)
  • WWII generation was not keen on eating a product with a Japanese name
  • Became popular in the 1980’s
  • Considered the best “learning” oyster, subtle briny yet sweet flavor and size are manageable to a new oyster consumer
  • Taylor Shellfish farms is known for their Kumamoto stock, and in fact saved the species after it became nearly extinct in it’s native Japan

The Virginica (Crassostrea virginica)

  • Grown only by Taylor Shellfish farms (more common on the east coast)
  • Taylor Virginicas won a 2008 Rhode Island oyster competition for “best flavor” and second place overall. The competition featured 19 oyster farms ranging from New England to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Virginicas seem to only thrive in Totten Inlet (between Olympia and Shelton)

The European Flat (Belon) (Ostrea edulis)

  • Grown extensively in Willapa Bay, South Puget and North sound prior to 1930
  • First non-native oyster introduced to the Pacific Northwest in the 1870’s
  • Brought back in the 1990’s
  • On the verge of extinction in Europe
  • “That” oyster – the aphrodisiac of Rome, the French Renaissance, and European romance
  • Once grew plentifully in the Thames and other estuaries
  • Flat “dinner plate” shell
  • Intense flavor profile

Armed with this historical, modern, and oyster variety information, we hope that as you enjoy our fare, you’ll have a new appreciation for these tasty shellfish!

Oyster on, friends.

5 reasons YOU should visit the Chuckanut Oyster Bar

Visit Chuckanut Oyster Bar

In July of 2016, our little restaurant was featured in a Seattle PI piece “Washington’s Best Road Trip Restaurants.” We were selected as a part of a readers poll which asked: where do you go to eat on your way to Canada, Oregon, Idaho or your favorite hiking spot?

While we’re happy that local outdoors enthusiasts appreciate our well-sourced cuisine and delectable desserts, we wondered, why else do people come visit us out here on Chuckanut Drive?

So, in a style that is all too common in the web today, we decided to make a “5 reasons YOU should visit the Chuckanut Oyster Bar” list.

Reason 1: The gorgeous Chuckanut Drive

Ever felt a little stir crazy, decide to hop in your car, and go for a drive? Well, if you’re looking for something scenic, Chuckanut Drive has what you need.

Featured in car commercials, numerous newspaper articles, ‘best of’ lists, and revealed as a not-so-hidden gem through word of mouth, Chuckanut Drive is breathtaking in any season. If you’re travelling between Mount Vernon and Bellingham, it makes for a nice break from I-5, and harkens back to a time when American motorists cruised just for the love of driving.

But don’t just take our word for it, car clubs love it too.

Driving down Chuckanut

The gorgeous canopy over the well maintained highway.

Reason 2: We got wine

And we’ve got the Wine Spectator awards for the last 27 years running to prove it. Owner Guy Colbert was at the helm of The Oyster Bar’s Wine Program from 1990 to 2014 and Amanda Abbott took over the purchasing responsibilities in 2014. She’s done an excellent job of injecting new producers that reflect her passion for interesting and delicious wines, and we’re confident that you’ll be impressed with the selection.

Reason 3: Play outside

Ok, this may fall under the purview of the initial Seattle PI poll we mentioned earlier, but it must be said, Chuckanut Drive is a gem when it comes to outdoor activities. Larrabee State Park, an elaborate trail system on top of Chuckanut Mountain, access to Chuckanut Bay (you brought your Kayak, right?), and those views! From various vantage points you can see the peak of Mount Baker, the San Juan Islands, the Twin Sisters Mountains, and even Raptor Ridge.

With so much trail access, it’s tough to beat the simple joy of a day spent exercising followed by a night of delicious oysters and wine.

Reason 4: Eat Local

We source many of our oysters and shellfish from our neighbors at Taylor Shellfish Farms, who are right down the road from us! It’s pretty rare that you can go visit the farm that produces your food, then drive down the road and eat freshly prepared food from that same place.

We’ve got great relationships with numerous local farms in Whatcom and Skagit counties, but we do feel an (obvious) special kinship with Taylor Shellfish. The Oyster Bar has been in operation, in one form or another, since the early 20th century, inspired in part by the local bounty.

Reason 5: Inspired Art

Bellingham is home to many talented artists, many of whom draw their inspiration from the sights, sounds, and zeitgeist of the area. We’re fortunate to call The Chuckanut Gallery our neighbor.

Featuring hundreds of one-of-a-kind pieces and a sculpture garden, the Chuckanut Gallery is a perfect place to peruse and find that little treasure to bring your home or office together. Going from local hiking, to local food, and wrapping it up with local art? That’s a mighty fine trip!

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For Your Favorite Foodies

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Featured Wine: Woodward Canyon 2016 Nelms Road Cabernet Sauvignon

Enticing aromas of black currant, olive, spices, tobacco, and lead pencil. Deep red in color. In the mouth the wine offers savory blueberry fruit, mature tannins, beautiful texture and a long generous finish.

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Closing times may vary seasonally so please call for a reservation if wishing to dine after 8pm.

It is our policy not to seat parties with children under 9 years of age unless our downstairs dining room is unoccupied.

Covid-19 Update 😷

Due to the new Covid-19 lockdown in Washington, our in-person services are closed. We are open again December 15th! Get ahead of the crowd and make your future reservation today by calling 360-223-5811.


Gift Cards Available
A Gift Card is the perfect gift for any foodie. Call 360-223-5811 or email info@theoysterbar.net and we mail it to you or the recipient.