Caviar Cones Come to Cambridge
Puritan & Company is about to debut a little sibling next door, Puritan Oyster Bar, with seafood towers and more.
“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.”
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, puritancambridge.com/oysterbar.