The Lincoln Park restaurant honors seafood, in all its forms
Oyster Bah, the new seafood spot from Lettuce Entertain You, is a bit of a misnomer. Besides being ridiculously silly (shouldn’t it be “Oystah Bah,” if you’re truly trying to embrace a Boston accent?), the name doesn’t fully get across how wide-ranging the menu is. Oysters from both the East and West coasts share menu space with New Orleans barbecue shrimp, fish tacos and tuna poke. Classic New England dishes are here, but this restaurant is more of a paean to American seafood, in all styles, rather than a New England seafood shack.
And that’s a fine thing, given how expertly chef Peter Balodimas prepares dishes. Starting with raw or chilled seafood is necessary, and cleanly shucked oysters, teeming with liquor, pop with a drop of tangy stout granita, while plump chilled shrimp come with or without a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning. On the cooked side, a pair of hearty New England stuffies pack chopped clams and chorizo into quahog shells—it’s a classic dish I love but never see around Chicago. Entrees are fairly simple, like steamed crab legs with lemon and butter for dunking, though the most buzzed-about dish, the crispy one-sided snapper, is a scene-stealer. Spicy Thai chili glaze adds heat to the flaky fish, which is served on the bone.
It’s not surprising that Oyster Bah is so strong so soon after opening—it’s the little sister to Shaw’s Crab House, which has long been my favorite Chicago seafood restaurant. Though between the casual space and thoughtful drink offerings here, I wouldn’t be surprised if Oyster Bah becomes my go-to seafood joint.
Atmosphere: The space is bustling and crowded, with tables jammed close together. Décor channels seafood shacks, with wood paneling and fish netting, though it’s cleaner and more comfortable than anything you’ll find on the coast.
What to eat: Oysters, New England stuffies, crispy one-sided snapper.
What to drink: The cocktail list has New England tinges, like a lovely reclaimed version of the Cape Cod, which adds sage, lemon and house-made cranberry juice to vodka. While the Fish House punch was overwhelmed by pomegranate, the Nor’easter was a gentle storm of rye, maple and lime, with a hint of ginger beer. All the wines are available by the glass or bottle, and the majority are under $60 per bottle. Try the Chablis with oysters, and buttery Rombauer chardonnay as you move to cooked seafood.
Where to sit: The tiny basement crab cellar, with a handful of tables and bar seating, is a quieter spot for dinner. Upstairs, the dining room has lots of tables and a bar with views of the TV and oyster shuckers.
|Venue name:||Oyster Bah||Contact:|
1962 N Halsted St
|Opening hours:||Sun 4-10pm, Mon-Thurs 5-10pm, Fri-Sat 4-11pm|
|Transport:||El: Brown and Purple lines to Armitage. Bus: 8, 73.|
|Do you own this business?|
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Average User Rating
3.2 / 5
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I have been looking forward to this place since it opened. Good thing I came hungry because I could not decide what to order. If you go for brunch -- you must order oysters and also check out the fried oyster benedict -- must get the maine blueberry jam with buttered toast (it's a nice treat!)
We dined here this past weekend for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of our experience...We arrived a few minutes early and didn't mind the wait on our table because we could see the restaurant was packed but a very nice female who was in the bar area came up to us and engaged in a very pleasant conversation with us while we waited...we ended up ordering drinks...We were soon seated at a very large in the back of the restaurant which suited us just fine given the amount of loud noise and talking in the dining we were sort of insulated from it...Everything we were brought was excellent and surpringly as much as we love going to Shaws we might prefer schlepping to Oyster Bah on Halsted because we really enjoyed the more relaxed and casual nature of the spot compared to the other downtown. The oysters were still just as fresh..We also had an order of the Crab bites that were so good...get these rather than the full Crab Leg dinner...bites 27$..Crab Leg dinner 40+..no brainer. The highlight of course was my entree which i had the Red Snapper...fried perfectly...the meat so good and the thai pepper sauce the perfect accoutrement to the dish...Really couldve eaten another fish but didn't want to be a pig :) We had dessert as well....The coconut creme cake was an excellent finish to our meal..We will definitely be back and soon...and will have to check out the smaller basement area as well. Highly recommended
Are we the only people who hated this place? We had an awful experience. We were so disappointed. The smoked trout dip came served in a red, plastic food boat, found in hot dog stands around Chicago. It would have been kitchy, except it was served with saltines wrapped in the cellophane. I actually asked the waiter if they stole the crackers from a local hospital or nursing home. And they gave us 8 saltines. Maybe if they bought them from Costco, they could have given us 10, perhaps 12. The oysters were skimpy and there isn't half the selection that Shaw's has, which again, is disappointing, because they named themselves Oyster Bah. Just call it Shaw's Lite instead. Finally, the $20 fish and chips is the smallest, weakest portion of fish and chips I have ever witnessed. Having just returned from Ireland for the 9th time, over there, a person can barely finish a portion. Oyster Bar left us hungry. Never going back, not impressed.