Check Out ICOB Burlington, Then Slurp Oysters There Tonight
The next time you have to make a trip to the Burlington Mall, at least you’ll be able to wind down from the holiday chaos with a dozen oysters on the half shell and a well-balanced cocktail. The award-winning Island Creek Oyster Bar opens a swanky suburban outpost tonight.
The newest ICOB looks and feels like the Kenmore Square original, with Bentel & Bentel (the original ICOB, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park) looking to Duxbury Bay for design inspiration. The bright, 90-seat dining area has white shutters made of reclaimed fencing, and a textured wall of clean Duxbury oyster shells behind a Gabion cage. The counters and drink rails are granite.
It’s 3,000 square feet larger than Boston, and as the space started as “a dirt pile,” the team was able to make it what they wanted, Sewall says. Building on fresh seafood fervor that partner Skip Bennett’s Duxbury oyster farm helped create and fuel, the restaurant group has built a bigger raw bar in the Burlington development known as the District. The menu will offer more tartare, crudo, and ceviche, including tuna poke with coconut milk and nori for opening night.
“[Those options are] so popular at Island Creek [Boston], but where the raw bar is at the bar has confined your ability to expand that part of the menu,” he says. “People love to eat that way. It’s communal, it’s sharing.”
The raw bar has its own seating, and guests will be able to see into the fish room, where employees will be breaking down seafood. The new restaurant also has three private dining areas, which is something the Boston location doesn’t offer. With companies like Keurig, Care.com, and Lahey Hospital in town, business events and accommodating large groups will be a large part of business in Burlington, Sewall says. The bar and lounge seats 65, and ICOB Burlington will also debut a 40-seat outdoor patio next year, too.
Nicola Hobson, who has lead ICOB’s kitchen since it opened in Kenmore Square, has been promoted to executive chef at both locations. General manager Erin DiNatale has risen the ranks in partner Garrett Harker’s James Beard Award-nominated school of hospitality, having started as a Row 34 server. Cocktail master Jackson Cannon lent his talents to Burlington’s drinks program. Check out the opening cocktail list below.
Next up for the Harker, Sewall, Bennett, and partner Shore Gregory: a new concept in Harvard Square. Construction is underway on the historic Conductor’s Building, a narrow, glass-walled structure next door to Joanne Chang’s newest Flour Bakery. But it’s going to take a while, Sewall says. Renovation requires new plumbing, electrical wiring, and other big projects.
“Because of the age of the building and the condition, it’s such a unique space that’s going to have its challenges as we finalize design and layout,” Sewall says.
The team also hasn’t defined the concept. “As Garrett and I are getting more comfortable in the space, we’re really trying to hone down on what we feel is going to be a great part of Harvard Square,” he says. “We keep bouncing ideas back and forth about what we think is going to work, and we’re getting really close.”
Sewall says it’s not an oyster bar, despite the trajectory of his career: The chef shuttered his rustic, New England restaurant Lineage over the summer to focus more on his oyster bar concepts.
The Harvard Square will offer them, but not as a focal point. “Oysters are the new Caesar salad. It’s on every menu, which is great,” Sewall says. “Going to Harvard Square and closing Lineage were tied. I couldn’t do Lineage the way I wanted to, my lease was up, it was time to go. But we’re still exercising those restaurant muscles and figuring out something new. We felt that building did not feel like a Row 34 or and Island Creek. We just felt like it was an opportunity to have singular real estate in Harvard Square to create something that’s a little bit different.”
In Burlington, the team begins exercising their Island Creek Oyster Bar muscles tonight at 5 p.m. The new restaurant is open nightly from 5-10 p.m. (11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday), and lunch and brunch are coming soon.
300 District Ave., Burlington, 781-761-6500, islandcreekoysterbar.com.