As a kid growing up on Nantucket, Dana Spring always dreamed about owning her own raw bar, but it wasn’t until recently that she really wrapped her head around the idea. This year, the entrepreneur launched Open Oyster, Newport’s newest mobile raw bar, which caters to events large and small. With a handsome half-hull filled with ice, Open Oyster sets up on site to deliver guests fresh shrimp, hand-shucked cherrystone clams, and, of course, a variety of local oysters, including Quonset Point and Umami from Narragensett Bay and Moonstone from Point Judith.
“In my free time, I was always gathering people and having events,” says Dana, a veteran of the hospitality industry and co-owner, with husband Mark, of the Marshall Slocum Inn on Kay Street in Newport. “So I thought, why not fill up the coolers with ice and make a business out of it, instead of just having a picnic?”
Open Oyster is a labor of love and a family affair – Mark and Dave More, Dana’s dad, help out at events – and the Springs are passing on their passion for the ocean’s bounty to their kids. “I’m always checking the tide charts,” says Dana. “If the timing is right – it’s hitting low tide when I’m picking the kids up from camp – we’ll hop in the inflatable, head to Dyer’s Island, and dig for steamers.”
To celebrate the launch of their venture, the Springs did what they do best – got a group of friends and family together, shucked some oysters, and had a good time. Following is an interview with Dana, and photos from the inaugural party.
Oysters and the development of oyster farming is crucial to the health of our local waters. We are able to support the industry and have a good time doing it.
Where does the shellfish you serve come from?
The shellfish we serve is from local waters around New England. We are able to get oysters from far away but our guests really love the idea of eating local.
Do you have a favorite type of oyster?
Gosh, that’s a tough one. If we had to chose it is a tie between Island Creek Oysters from Duxbury and Umami Oysters from American Mussel in Quonset Point.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about oysters but doesn’t?
Each adult oyster filters and cleans up to 50 gallons of water per day. They gobble up algae and remove dirt and nitrogen pollution. That’s good news for the health of our local bay areas.
What are the flavors or other characteristics that define oysters from different regions or farms?
Oysters take on nutrients from their growing area. Some areas are higher in salinity and minerals, making for a saltier flavor.
Cocktail sauce or mignonette?
What do you like about being in the service industry?
Seeing people happy. We are able to provide a fun product in some of our country’s most beautiful settings. The best part is seeing the host(ess) relaxed and having fun. It’s a rewarding indicator that we have done our job right, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Do you serve your kids oysters for dinner?
Absolutely! Now if we could just teach them to shuck…
How hard is it really to open an oyster?
There is definitely a trick to opening oysters. Its a tough concept to not use force but rather take the time to locate the oyster’s sweet spot and gently pop it open.
All photos by Maaike Bernstrom Photography. Click on any image below to open the gallery.