Caviar Cones Come to Cambridge

Puritan & Company is about to debut a little sibling next door, Puritan Oyster Bar, with seafood towers and more.

Two small ice cream cones full of caviar are presented in a little terracotta flower pot.

Puritan Oyster Bar’s caviar cones, with Japanese-style egg salad. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

“Butter boards were 2022; we’re going to do butter dip in 2023,” says chef and restaurateur Will Gilson, laughing and lighting the candle under a little ramekin of melted butter to accompany a plate of buttered lobster toast. “It’s basically a warm buttered lobster roll, but have it be finger food,” he says. “We take equal parts of scallop and lobster, whip them together, and steam it inside of bread, and it comes out almost like a katsu sandwich.”

Overhead view of chopped octopus in a round plate, tossed in bright red seasoning and garnished with herbs and a lemon wedge.

Puritan Oyster Bar’s chilled octopus, with lemon juice, olive oil, and smoked paprika. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

It’s one of a parade of seafood dishes on the opening menu at Puritan Oyster Bar, set to debut at 1164 Cambridge St. in Cambridge’s Inman Square on February 7, right next to big sibling Puritan & Company. In fact, Gilson and his team—also behind the Lexington, Geppetto, and Café Beatrice at the Cambridge Crossing development a mile down the road—have had this space since Puritan & Co. opened 10 years ago, and while Gilson had dreams of turning it into an oyster bar early on, it’s primarily been “a trash and storage room” for the past decade. (Briefly, it was Puritan Provisions, a little sandwich and snack shop, and recently, it was almost a bakery, but the project would have required “steakhouse pricing to build out a thousand-square-foot bakery space,” says Gilson.)

A cast-iron, oval-shaped pan is full of a thick white dip, garnished with scallions and an orange oil, with a side of crispy wontons.

Puritan Oyster Bar’s crab Rangoon dip with fried wontons. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

So, those early oyster bar dreams came back around: It’s a perfect use of the space—the raw bar-focused menu doesn’t require its own kitchen. And Puritan & Co.’s private event room, located behind the Puritan Oyster Bar space, makes for easy overflow seating on nights when there isn’t an event. The main space—meant to have a subtle classic New England vibe without being too in-your-face about it—seats about 30, with 12 along the main bar, three at a lower bar section, and more at a handful of standard and high-top tables. No reservations to start—just swing by with some hungry friends and order, say, a seafood tower jam-packed with oysters, shrimp, crab salad, lobster tail, and ceviche.

Three finger sandwiches are garnished with chopped chives and a ramekin of melted butter.

Puritan Oyster Bar’s buttered lobster toast. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

While Greater Boston has quite a bit of seafood, Cambridge only has a couple other oyster bars, says Gilson, and he’s hoping to offer something “that feels a little bit more fun and unique and different” than the ubiquitous New England seafood restaurant template. Not that there’s anything wrong with a classic lobster roll or plate of fried calamari, but at Puritan Oyster Bar you’re more likely to see, for example, crab guacamole or temaki-style yellowtail “tacos” or little cones stuffed with Japanese-style egg salad topped with caviar.

Overhead view of a scallop crudo, served in a scallop shell, garnished with bright yellow-orange gooseberries and green slices of jalapeno.

Puritan Oyster Bar’s scallop crudo, with gooseberries, jalapeno, lime juice, and olive oil. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Caviar has historically been a tough sell at the big sibling next door, Gilson says, reminiscing about a special caviar service he once excitedly offered with frozen mini bottles of Ketel One, inspired by the vodka served in blocks of ice at the now-defunct New York City mainstay Sammy’s Roumanian. “Nobody got it,” he says. But now that Puritan Oyster Bar exists, caviar will hopefully be a more enticing fit, and he’s excited to put these snack-y cones on the menu.

A fresh roll packed with cucumber and salmon is split into pieces and garnished with orange salmon roe and fresh herbs.

Puritan Oyster Bar’s salmon fresh roll, with seasoned buttermilk, dill oil, and salmon roe. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

That, and a rotating array of at least half a dozen oysters every night, and a smoked bluefish melt, and lots more. But don’t miss dessert: Those in the know seek out sweets from pastry chef Brian Mercury, who dreams up creative treats for each of the restaurants in Gilson’s group. Early visitors to Puritan Oyster Bar might find banoffee pie with banana caramel; chocolate whoopie pie with mocha buttercream; and PB&J ice cream with miso candied peanuts; not to mention other rotating ice creams and sorbets.

Three finger sandwiches are displayed on a blue plate with a side of colorful pickled vegetables.

Puritan Oyster Bar’s smoked bluefish melt, with cheddar, American, and tomato. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

To drink? Seafood-friendly wines, beers, and cocktails, including large-format cocktail options served in a gurgling cod pitcher, the “Glug Jug”—“fine for one, meant for two,” says Gilson.

A three-story tower of silver trays holds raw bar items and sauces. It sits on a light wooden table in front of a pale green wall.

Puritan Oyster Bar’s seafood tower, with shrimp, ceviche, caviar, crab and celery root salad, oysters, green chili sauce, cocktail sauce, and cucumber ginger mignonette. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Keep an eye on Instagram for any updates leading up to the planned February 7 opening, and then head over for some crab Rangoon dip or scallop crudo.

1164 Cambridge St., Inman Square, Cambridge,