By Peter Milligan
Photos courtesy of King St. Oyster Bar
“I was tired of going all the way to D.C. for a good oyster.”
Simple words, but that’s all the motivation it took to get longtime chef Rick Allison and his business partner Jorge Esguerra to open King St. Oyster Bar in Leesburg, Virginia. From there, Allison’s culinary know-how, paired with Esguerra’s business acumen, topped off with Leesburg’s equally hungry appetite for mollusk mastery, has made King St. Oyster Bar a true hot spot.
Now, the duo is bringing their much sought after oyster offerings to Middleburg.
Much of the success that Allison and Esguerra hope to replicate in Middleburg comes from the culinary vision of the man behind the food. Chef Allison graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. From there, he went on to cook at some of the most recognizable restaurant names in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, including the Great American Restaurants like Mike’s “American” and Sweetwater Tavern, Clyde’s restaurants and the Old Ebbitt Grill in Northwest D.C.
He also operates two food trucks – one serving fresh raw bar fare similar to the Oyster Bar, and another called Pittsburgh Rick’s, which serves, among other ‘yinzer’ specialties, the notoriously indulgent Primanti Bros. style sandwiches, piled high with fresh-cut fries, a slice of tomato and classic apple cider vinegar slaw.
“We want everyone to know that we’ve made an investment in Middleburg, and that we’re here to stay,”
But at the Oyster bar, both at the current location on King Street in Leesburg and the future new digs in Middleburg, seafood is king; and if there were a king of kings at this establishment, it is indeed the oyster.
Allison and his team get their oysters from both the East Coast (primarily Maine) and west coast (primarily Washington State), and they are able to get them 24 and 48 hours out of the water, respectively. That means outside of perhaps New England, you’re not getting a much fresher east coast oyster.
And in addition to the classic raw preparation which, for purists, means just the oyster in all its briny glory, the team at King St. Oyster Bar is serving up a preparation they say is not being replicated anywhere else in the area: grilled oysters. That includes:
- Chipotle crusted, with a smoky trifecta of andouille sausage, chipotle and bacon.
- Casino, with bacon (do you sense a theme?), chilies and a citrus butter.
- Bacon wrapped, with a balsamic reduction.
- Rockefeller, with spinach, Parmigiano-Reggiano and fontina cheeses.
- And perhaps the most decadent, the King Street, with succulent blue crab, intensely salty Tasso ham and roasted corn.
A fun twist to start out the restaurant’s entrance in the Middleburg market, King St. Oyster Bar will be holding a contest to name their signature oyster, which hails from Hog Island, Virginia, one of the Commonwealth’s easternmost islands.
They’re also doing other classic seafood bar offerings, like crab cakes made exclusively with jumbo lump meat (the Cadillac of crabmeat), and lobster rolls that are spilling over with big, fat, fresh pieces of lobster shipped straight from Maine’s coast.
Besides the can’t-miss seafood that will be making its way from the Leesburg, King St. Oyster Bar is also bringing one of the area’s best happy hours to town, which includes $5 menu specials and half-priced oysters every single day from 3-6:30 p.m.
As if the food itself wasn’t enough, there’s even more reason to pay a visit to King St. Oyster Bar. Allison is part of the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) – a 501(c)(3) that promotes scientifically-sustainable shellfish ecological restoration in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays.
The ORP takes recycled oyster shells from Allison’s restaurants, and using artificially implanted larva, places those oysters back into the bays to filter what will one day be 30 gallons of water per day, keeping the waters of the bays clean.
And back to the food, Allison hopes that both locations offer the same feeling – of home, comfort, relaxation and a full belly.
“We want everyone to know that we’ve made an investment in Middleburg, and that we’re here to stay,” said Allison. “I’ll be around often to meet new people, make relationships, and make sure folks are having great, fresh food in a comfortable setting.” ML