Private urban cabanas were the hot restaurant trend of summer. Could private urban garages be the hot trend of fall? That’s the latest addition at Oyster Oyster, Shaw’s new plant-based restaurant from chef Rob Rubba and Estadio owner Max Kuller. The highly anticipated venture, which was set to open just before the pandemic, has been operating as takeout-only for the past month. Now with the semi-enclosed Oyster Garage—a tricked-out parking area adjacent to the restaurant—the team will be able to host private pizza and pinball parties (plus oysters and alcohol!) for groups of six or fewer.
Located in a former Giant grocery store pick-up lane, this place has a real mish-mash: bivalves, arcade games, vegetarian/vegan pizza, and “resonsible” wines. Pre-pandemic, the team envisioned the Oyster Garage as a more casual sibling to finer-dining Oyster Oyster—an all-day hangout with tasty homemade baked goods, local beers and ciders on draft, and vintage pinball machines from Kuller’s personal collection. The Covid-friendly iteration isn’t all that different. Groups can reserve the psychedelic space on Fridays and Saturdays (to start) for two-hour seatings at 5 and 8 PM. The $400 package deal (excluding tax and gratuity) includes four-dozen oysters with seasonal mignonette, four bottles of wine and/or pitchers of beer, four “cowabunga” pizzas (named after Ninja Turtles references), and all the Seawitch and Whitewater pinball one can play.
Rubba, who’s one of the founders of Bakers Against Racism and ran the Scrappy’s Bagel Bar pop-up at Estadio, has recently been obsessed with perfecting pizza doughs—which is where the idea for a “Ninja Turtles-style pizza party” came from. (Yes, both Kuller and Rubba are ’80s kids—just look at the recycled skateboard decks lining the wall.)
“I like looking back as you’re moving forward. I’ve been working on a good dough that’s a little thicker as a crust that reminded me of the personal pan pizzas—really nice, buttery,” says Rubba of his “cowabunga-style” crusts.
When it comes to toppings, think outside the average pizza box. Oyster Oyster’s ethos is all about hyper-local, seasonal, and responsible sourcing—hence the vegetarian approach, save for mollusks, which filter and clean water. “We’re not even using olive oil or canned tomatoes, but that can be a lot for people to take in,” says Rubba. “We want people to have fun at the same time.”
Guests can pick between rotating, Turtles-themed vegetarian and vegan pies like the Leonardo with foraged Indigo mushrooms, sunflower-garlic cream, and herb salsa verde, a spicy ma po tofu-inspired pizza with crispy eggplant. (In place of olive oil, Rubba sources a robust hemp oil from Pennsylvania.)
Beverage manager Sarah Horvitz will match a variety of natural or sustainably produce wines, ciders, and pitchers of beer. For something different, try Oyster Oyster’s own brew made in collaboration with Chincoteague’s Black Narrows Brewing—an umami-rich farmhouse saison made with oyster mushrooms, oyster yeast, local wheat, and grain. Guests can add on extras like Champagne or additional food if they’re feeling festive.
Kuller has erred on the cautious side when it comes to opening in the pandemic; neither Estadio nor Oyster Oyster serve customers indoors. The Oyster Garage is covered and enclosed on the sides but has a fully open garage front; heated floors to keep things cozy when the temperature drops. “We think it should stay fairly comfortable as long as it doesn’t get crazy cold,” says Kuller.
During the day, new Lorton, Virginia-based RĀKO Coffee Roasters will operate a pop-up shop at the Oyster Garage starting Saturday, September 26 through February (hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 8 AM to 2:30 PM). The women-owned company has a similar approach to Oyster Oyster, sourcing environmentally friendly, single-origin coffees that are roasted using energy-efficient processes. In addition to espresso drinks with a spectrum of dairy and alt-milks, the team collaborated on a holistic lion’s mane mushroom tea. Rubba will also sell pastries, breads, and other homemade goods at the shop.
“There’s always a collaborative spirit in DC, but especially at a time like this,” says Kuller. “People are looking for anything that bring revenue, and anything that can bring excitement.”
Oyster Garage at Oyster Oyster. 1440 8th St., NW. Reservations available via Tock.