Oyster Garage at Oyster Oyster. 1440 8th St., NW.
Vegetable-centric Shaw tasting restaurant Oyster Oyster is currently booked out until mid-September. But starting Thursday, July 20, you’ll be able to drop in anytime to try chef Rob Rubba’s sustainability-minded food for a fraction of the price. He and co-owner Max Kuller are opening their long-awaited Oyster Garage, serving oysters on the half shell, grandma-style pizza squares, and wines from “responsible producers” in a former grocery pick-up parking area next door.
“We’re using the same ingredients. We’re using the same products. We’re putting the same philosophy and technique into it. It’s just a different format,” says Rubba, who was recently named “Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Awards. He’s also out to show that sustainability doesn’t just have to be for high-minded fine-dining: “We’re going to do everything we do with the same ethos—maybe even further—with this smaller space.”
For example, oysters on the half shell will be served on chilled cast-iron and glass plates instead of on ice that would be immediately dumped down the drain. “We do have an issue with water being a resource that’s exploited. It might not seem like a problem here where we live, but it’s a problem kind of all around the country, and we wanted to be mindful of that,” Rubba says.
Rubba also won’t be serving oysters with traditional cocktail sauce or lemons, as they aren’t grown locally. Instead, you’ll find seasonal condiments such as a mushroom-oyster XO sauce or a housemade horseradish vinegar.
Fluffy grandma-style pizza squares ($8) are made from a flour blend of wheat, spelt, and rye, freshly milled in Pennsylvania. The dough is fermented for 36 to 48 hours to “give it a little bit of tang,” Rubba says, and incorporates an olive oil from Georgia—the furthest Oyster Oyster has gone to source an ingredient. On any given night, you’ll find two to three styles, with options for cheese or no cheese. The opening menu includes a play on a tomato pie with chili/ tomato jam, fresh slices of heirloom tomatoes, and a variety of different basils. There’s also a vegetarian riff on the flavors of a Reuben sandwich with crispy eggplant, sauerkraut, and Rubba’s take on thousand island dressing.
Only a set number of pizzas will be made each night, so when they’re gone, they’re gone. And no, the pizza won’t be available for takeout: “I have a real issue with to-go packaging. Even whether it’s compostable or not, it’s just a waste of resources,” Rubba says.
A concise wine-by-the-glass menu highlights vegan, natural, biodynamic, and organic producers, alongside a handful of beers (no cocktails). “They all dance within that realm of producers that are doing things that are either good for the environment, good for their staff,” Rubba says. An abbreviated version of Oyster Oyster’s bottle list is also available.
Whereas Oyster Oyster’s dining room is relatively minimalist, the Oyster Garage is filled with bold, colorful street art and nods to skateboard culture (a passion of Rubba’s). Kuller has also lent the space two ‘80s and ‘90s pinball machines from his personal collection. (The games are free to play for now, but Oyster Oyster tokens are coming.) The space has only 15 bar and counter seats, with some standing-only tables eventually coming outdoors. Seating will be first-come, first-served.
Meanwhile, if you’re still angling for a seat at Oyster Oyster, here’s a little insider tip: Fall reservations go live on Resy at 10 AM on Thursday, July 20.
Here’s the opening menu: