Critics’ choice: Outings that begin with oysters

Row 34; Dover; Kimball House

Row 34 Boston

When a place calls itself “a workingman’s oyster bar,” it creates certain expectations, said Devra First in The Boston Globe. The workingmen who frequent this cavernous, industrial-style new joint in Fort Point gab more about stock options than stevedoring, but that’s okay. Row 34 nails a key part of the equation: It’s “relaxed, loose, and loud, a happy place with great food and even better beer.” The oysters themselves have a fine pedigree. Row 34 is the latest addition to a growing family of popular Boston oyster bars launched and supplied by Island Creek Oysters of nearby Duxbury. Row 34 serves its oysters on ice, “with just the right amount of embellishment: lemon, cocktail sauce, a classic mignonette, and a delightful spicy version with Southeast Asian flavors.” The kitchen misses the mark here and there, but there are dishes on the menu—like the house-made bucatini with clams—“that will haunt diners with cravings for months to come.” To get “the full, convivial Row 34 experience,” order dinner at the bar. The “frenetically busy” staff makes every patron feel plugged in. 383 Congress St., (617) 553-5900

Dover Brooklyn

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“With the first bite of my first course” at Dover, I learned I’d been needing something I’d never had, said Pete Wells in The New York Times. Broiled oysters are a “vaguely old-fashioned” dish, but the Wellfleets in front of me, blanketed by an eggy, creamy Gallic sauce, were transporting—“just rich enough to feel like an extravagance without bringing on gloomy reflections about the brief duration of our time on earth.” Chefs Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern cook in a style that’s “French in spirit if not in all its particulars,” aiming to please more than impress. But please they do. “A French grandmother would say Dover’s cream--saturated root vegetable gratin was old hat,” but she’d eat every bite—even though the accompanying roast chicken for two can hold its own with the city’s finest. It’s great to see Ogrodnek and Stern working in a bigger space than they had nearby at perpetually overcrowded Battersby. If you’re a New Yorker tiring of “the rigorously tweezered austerity” that most other creative chefs are practicing, Dover’s cooking “will strike you as sweet relief.” 412 Court St., (347) 987-3545

Kimball House Decatur, Ga.

Oysters make a dynamite opening act at Decatur’s “buzziest” new restaurant, said Bill Addison in Atlanta magazine. Housed in a former train depot from the 1890s, Kimball House is the brainchild of seven owners, each of whom seems to bring to the enterprise a particular expertise. Co-owner Bryan Rackley, for instance, oversees what instantly became the metro area’s finest selection of oysters—an ever-changing array of “20 or so beauties” from the West Coast, New England, Canada, and the Chesapeake. Rackley provides spirited tasting notes for each variety, delivers them on ice, and encourages only minimal embellishment—a squeeze of lemon or a bead of shallot-vinegar mignonette applied from an apothecary dropper. Chefs Phil Meeker and Jeffrey Wall offer an array of “intense, artful” dishes, but my ideal Kimball House meal centers on the $45 steak dinner, ends with a Swiss absinthe, and begins, always, with the oysters. 303 E. Howard Ave., (404) 378-3502

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