Friday, March 21, 2014

The Ordinary (Charleston Oyster Tour)

I love when people have a sense of humor, especially ironic, dry humor. Even the most abrasive people endear themselves to me with a bit of comic wit. Which is why I loved The Ordinary before I even stepped foot in the door. For a restaurant that quickly rose to the top in a traditional culinary town to call itself "ordinary" is self-deprecating (another of my favorite traits) and pretty funny. 

In a great mood before I arrived, I couldn't wait to see what oysters they had on tap, so when I showed up in the pouring rain at noon for lunch, I was crushed. (Note: The Ordinary is not open for lunch, even on the weekends.) No worries. I decided to end, not begin, my Charleston oyster tour at The Ordinary

When I returned that evening to the Oyster Hall, it was packed and I was ready. We plopped (again) in front of the oyster bar and chatted up Evan Gaudreau, a newbie oyster shucker from Boston. Along with veteran shucker Sean Norton, the two shuck more than 800 oysters a night to the hippest crowd in Charleston. On the recommendation of our waitress, we paired a half dozen oysters with a Pepiere Clos de Briods Muscadet (Loire Valley, France): my new favorite oyster wine.

Boston transplant Evan Gaudreau
Oyster Shucker, The Ordinary
Charleston, SC

Veteran Shucker Sean Norton
The Ordinary, Charleston, SC
The Oyster Bar in the Oyster Hall
The Ordinary, Charleston, SC

We ordered an assortment of Coosaws Cups, Wallace Bays, Pickle Points, and Standish Shores. While waiting, I tried not to stare at the trio of celebrity TV chefs - in for the Food + Wine Festival - who were also getting a piece of The Ordinary, incognito. Oysters arrived. I stopped staring and reverted to furtive glances.

Coosaw Cups (Beaufort, SC)

Coosaw Cups
Beaufort, SC
You gotta see the cups on the Coosaws - we're talking Double Ds. They are huge! These South Carolina natives are briny, meaty and restaurant ready. Grown at the mouth of the Coosaw River, south of Charleston, I expect Coosaws to start showing up on oyster menus up and down the coast. Too much rain killed much of the harvest in 2013. Let's hope they continue to rebound. Great job Coosaw! Whoot whoo.

Wallace Bay, (Nova Scotia, Canada))

Wallace Bay
Nova Scotia, Canada

These wild oysters grow slow in Northern Nova Scotia. They are medium briny, medium meaty, medium taste. They are middle of the road. I give them more credit than other oysters in their class knowing that most of them are harvested in freezing waters with a mask and a snorkel. Some people really like Wallace Bays. I think you can do better.

Pickle Point (PEI, Canada)

Pickle Point Oysters
PEI, Canada

What if Peter Piper picked a peck of Pickle Points? How many Pickle Points did Peter Piper pick? (Hint: an oyster peck is about 20-25 oysters, give or take.) I'm sure it was subliminal, but Pickle Points taste a bit like pickles: briny/veggie-ish. These are some of the best oysters I've had from PEI. I look forward to ordering again. Plus it's so fun to say, "Can I have a plate of Pickle Points?"

Standish Shore (Duxbury Bay, MA)

Standish Shore Oyster
Duxbury Bay, MA

Standish Shores are grown by the Pangea Shellfish Company, a Boston-based shellfish distributor. The fact that they both grow their own oysters and represent oyster farms on both coasts is an interesting dynamic. So is the oyster. Standish Shores burst with brininess, then finish sweet. Not candy sweet like Komo Guays, but fruit sweet. They are tumbled before a final bottom culture, which creates so stellar shells. I like them. It's hard to go wrong in Duxbury Bay.

The oysters are great. The atmosphere is fun. The service is like it should be everywhere, but isn't. The building is extraordinary. Or ordinary, depending on your sense of humor.

The Ordinary is part of Oyster Stew's Ultimate Oyster Tour of CharlestonClick here for details about the two-day tour.

The Ordinary
544 King St. 
Charleston, SC


  1. Please tell me you had the smoked oysters! The Ordinary is arguably one of the most amazing shellfish experiences I've had in a long time. Will never forget it.

    1. I missed the smoked oysters and am kicking myself! It really is an amazing place.

  2. Kim, we're thrilled that you enjoyed the Standish Shore Oysters! If you're in Boston, we would love to invite you to our Duxbury farm and shuck them fresh from the water! Love the blog and continue doing what you already do!


    Pangea Shellfish

    1. I'll be back in Boston sooner or later and would love to stop by. Thanks for supporting the blog!