Connecticut’s Oyster Club Offers Outdoor Summer Dining at Its Finest
The local gem, which is now serving four-course dinners in a historic garden, also shares a surprisingly simple and delicious oyster recipe
For New York and New England residents seeking a nearby escape that’s all about scrumptious seasonal cuisine, Mystic, Connecticut, is well worth the visit. There, Oyster Club, a local gem founded in 2011 by Dan Meiser—a Restaurant Daniel and Café Boulud alum—combines the quality of fine dining with an inviting farm-to-table ambience that has landed it on The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurants in America list numerous times. While Oyster Club frequently hosts events in outdoor spaces, its recently debuted Summer Nights pop-up is a particularly refreshing dining option that, if only for an hour or two, creates the illusion of a pre-pandemic, blissful summer evening under the stars.
Held in the formal gardens of Stone Acres Farm, which has been operating since 1765, the reservation-only experience includes a four-course dinner and welcome cocktail that changes each week. “I grew up on a farm in North Carolina, so I have a strong attachment to the land and where food comes from,” Oyster Club executive chef James Wayman, who has crafted dinners for the famed James Beard House, tells Galerie. “Stone Acres has this beautiful, peaceful energy about it. It’s a lovely place to be, and you couldn’t get fresher product.”
Wayman lets the local fields dictate his meals. So far, the pop-up’s menus have centered around themes such as “Foraged,” where foraged ingredients complement locally sourced meat and fish, and “Wood Fired,” which spotlights the pasture-raised meats from Grass & Bone butcher shop. Upcoming dishes range from smoky roast beef with Koji Italian dressing, mustard-green crème fraîche, onion rings, and cucumber pickles, to a grilled brioche dessert with whipped brown-butter custard, black raspberry jam, and chamomile honey.
Of course, oysters—and a raw bar—will be regular offerings, though, Wayman says, each week will bring a different oyster type. Also consistently served is Oyster Club’s organic sourdough bread, which has been a particular focus for the chef as of late. In about a month’s time, the restaurant team will open a spot nearby called Nana’s, which will be a sourdough bakery and pizza shop where all grains are milled in house.
By following restaurant reopening guidelines and optimizing its outdoor dining experience, Oyster Club can also continue renovating its main space. In the meantime, its Stone Acres pop-up can seat from 100 to 150 guests per evening (on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday), and due to overwhelming demand, it has already been extended to August 8.
For those who cannot make it to Oyster Club this season, chef James Wayman has shared a recipe for oyster stew featured during the pop-up’s first menu. Perfect for chilly summer evenings, this dish is “delicious, approachable, and something people can actually make,” says Wayman.
Summer Oyster Stew (Serves Four)
24 very fresh oysters in the shell
1 tbsp fresh tarragon roughly chopped
2 tbsp good-quality butter (unsalted) cut into small cubes
Freshly cracked pepper to taste
Hefty squeeze of lemon
Shuck oysters and juice into a wide-bottomed shallow pan, bring to a simmer over medium heat, and add butter and tarragon. Swirl pan until butter melts and oysters barely cook. Season with a pinch of salt. Divide into four bowls, and crack pepper over top and lemon. Serve and enjoy.