After successfully opening two locations, one in Leesburg and one in Middleburg, the oyster geniuses behind King Street Oyster Bar (named after King Street in Leesburg, not Alexandria) have ventured into the District for their third outpost. We were lucky enough to sample the goods on their first week open back in November, and, since our visit, they’ve expanded their offerings to bring you a banging weekend brunch and an expanded drink list.
First, let’s talk about the space. The bar takes center stage, showing off King Street’s impressive oyster offerings and barman DJ Suan’s cocktail wizadry. The restaurant is industrial yet refined, big enough to throw a party in, but small enough to feel intimate. Owner Jorge Esquerra’s wife is the creative responsible for many of the custom accents on the walls and the tables. For one of the first full service restaurants in the neighborhood, King Street Oyster Bar has really set the standard high.
On to the drinks. DJ Suan knows his cocktails. After his stint at the Green Zone, he is no stranger to unique ingredients. Pictured above is the “Protect the Bees.” a gin-based cocktail with honey, ginger, lemon, and topped with a pale ale. Another of our favorites, was the Aunty Sandy’s Daiquiri, which DJ mixes with some sort of magical banana mixture that tastes like your sipping on a boozy version of banana bread. Don’t sleep on the Peruvian Cloud either. DJ mixes in just enough hops bitters to trick your palate into thinking that this pisco based drink is somehow just a beer. And each cocktail name has a story – so don’t hesitate to ask your bartender, especially if DJ is there to do the telling.
The bar program is a 10/10, but the food really does lead the way here. If you’re just there for drinks and snacks, you’re in luck. With offerings like the Ivy City Smokehouse Fish Board, the infinite options of seafood towers and raw bar combinations, and all sorts of other small, seafood-forward small bites, you certainly won’t go hungry.
One of our favorite starters were the tuna tacos with avocado, jicama slaw and cilantro. The tuna is extraordinarily fresh and the right amount of flavor in whatever magical sauce they’re tossing it in. In lieu of tortillas, they’re using watermelon radishes for the vehicle. So for those of you doing some sort of January Whole 30 situation – these are the treat for you.
Our favorite dish of the night (and one of the best seafood dishes we’ve had in a WHILE) was the scallop carpaccio. The scallops are, like all the seafood we tried, incredibly fresh. In this dish, they’re pounded flat into a true carpaccio shape and then covered in a mixture of ponzu, macadamia nuts, basil, and scallions. The light sweetness of the macadamia nuts and the scallops matches perfectly with the ponzu. And the texture combinations in your mouth are insane. If you don’t get this at some points in your King Street food journey, you’re missing out.
In addition to their many raw seafood options, King Street does incredible things with with their cooked seafood as well. And what good is a seafood restaurant in the mid-Atlantic without a lobster roll? This one is lightly fried in a perfectly buttered bun and just the right size to save some room for oysters. You have the option to get it cold or hot (like the one above), and they’re always served with hand cut fries. Pro tip – King Street makes their own hot sauce that’s served in little dropper bottles. Use the fries (and everything really) as a vehicle for this sauce.
Another exceptional fried offering is the shrimp bites, which are tempura fried popcorn shrimp, tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce that’s made of chili, lime, and peppercorn honey. You may have had pow pow shrimp somewhere before, but these take that concept to a whole different level.
King Street does a lot of good things in the kitchen, but they’re doing a lot of good things out of the kitchen too. As a member of the Shell Recycling Alliance, these oystermongers are committed to sustainability. As a part of that, they also source as many oysters as possible locally and are committed to having east coast oysters from the water to your platter in no more than 24 hours, or 48 hours for the west coasts.
There is a double (5-7pm daily; 10pm-close Sunday through Thursday) happy hour featuring $5 drinks and $1 oysters. The relatively new brunch offering has options like a jumbo shrimp Bloody Mary, Brunch Punch, chicken and waffles and more.
We would recommend getting over there ASAP before word of the $1 oyster happy hour gets around town. You’ll probably see one of us there with a full dozen and a few of those $5 cocktails.
Celebrated restaurateurs Rick Allison and Jorge Esguerra, the geniuses behind King Street Oyster Bar, emphasized that the team at King Street truly prides itself on cultivating community, and genuinely developing and nurturing that feel good neighborhood restaurant vibe. They are passionate about continuing to create unique community-centric restaurants that help grow the surrounding area. They said that they are also honored to join the beautiful evolving neighborhood of NoMa and filling a void in the young restaurant scene there.
King Street Oyster Bar is located at 22 M Street NE, Washington DC, 20002; www.KingStreetOysterBar.com; (202) 621-8513; @KingStreetOyster; #KSOBNoMa and are now open for lunch, two happy hours, dinner, and weekend brunch.