The Vineyard seems to cover all its bases as far as dining experiences go. Your harborside bar and grill, your casual diner, your white-tablecloth summer splurge, or your hearty meal in the woods of West Tisbury. But as far as having a simple oyster bar — well, we didn’t.
19 Raw opened in Edgartown on July 21, and is exceeding all expectations, according to owner and head chef Joe Monteiro. The good business speaks for itself — it offers things the Vineyard really didn’t have.
“The Island needed a cool oyster bar,” Mr. Monteiro, former executive chef at the Atlantic, said in an interview with The Times. “Fresh new food, a wine list like no other, a fun environment, welcoming hospitality, and an overall cool spot to hang.”
We’ll start with the fresh new food. It begins with an extensive oyster selection, many of which probably arrived at the bar around the same time you did: Local Honey Suckles and Sweet Necks from Katama Bay, Island Creeks from Duxbury, Moon Shoals from Barnstable, and Mookie Blues from Damariscotta, Maine. There’s also rotating oysters of the day. We ordered the Moon Shoals, Island Creeks, Mookie Blues, and the special shipment of Warren’s Coves out of Plymouth, and Peter’s Points from Fernandina Beach, Fla. The half-shell delicacies are served up over shaved ice, zesty lemon wedges, and with Champagne Mignonette, Kimchi Purée, and Spicy Cocktail sauce. Hesitant oyster consumers will find refuge in the small and approachable half-shells, and even those who’d slurp massive suckers straight off the low-tide farming trays will recognize the spread as topnotch. At $3 a pop, the salty freshness of the raw, savory sea treat makes for an app to remember.
On to the other stuff. There’s a section of the menu called “Other Stuff.” It consists of the Spicy Lobster Taco ($22), which Mr. Monteiro said is one of the most popular things on the menu, if he had to choose, because everything sells. My group felt called to the raw fish selection to further complement our oyster kick, and we settled on the Tuna Carpaccio ($18) and day boat Scallop Crudo ($19). The thinly sliced tuna was served in a limoncello basil aioli, topped with masago, which are the tiny eggs of a small fish known as capelin. It was served with a tart ponzu sauce, and created a flavor I’ve never experienced before in a raw fish dish — until I tried the scallops. They were served in a horseradish crema with ginger and hot sesame oil, with a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth texture and bursting tang. Our server, Stewie, sold us on another off-the-menu dish, the Sriracha French Fries. Mention the word sriracha around a group of millennials, and there’s not much more to be said. The just-right crispiness of the french fries and the light seasoning of hot sriracha served with aioli dip created something out of my wildest dreams. Where has this place been all my life?
Leaving me even more speechless than the meal was the space where it all happened. We sat at a polished outside wooden bar overlooking Church Street in Edgartown, one of the most happening places for foot traffic and people-watching. There’s plenty of seating both inside and out, at tables or at bars, and everything has a glossy finish in an upscale but casual way. 19 Raw doesn’t have a kitchen, and everything happens behind the bar. There’s one oven, a space for shucking, a section for raw food prep, and besides that, all booze — another aspect of 19 Raw that happens to be outlandishly impressive.
Moscow Mules have been the summer’s go-to, and act like you’re surprised, 19 Raw has a housemade mix on tap. It’s called a Menemsha Mule ($13), and it’s made with New Amsterdam Vodka, Top Hat Ginger Beer, mixed with fresh watermelon and a squeeze of lime juice, creating a refreshing fruity take on a popular ginger drink. My table also honed in on the Watermelon Bellini ($13) and Katama Pisco Sour ($13). The Bellini is sparkling wine, mixed with fresh watermelon juice and mint. The Pisco Sour contained brandy, lime juice, and egg whites that made up the drink’s frothy finish. We didn’t even go down the vino trail, but the extensive list fills a side of the menu in a beautifully overwhelming way.
Talk about unique options and a list of things to go back for. According to Mr. Monteiro, it’s all about the thought and love.
“People love being here,” he said. “My staff, the customers. Everyone’s smiling, and that’s the best part.”
19 Raw is open seven days a week, from noon until midnight. They’re hoping to stay open through November. It is located at 19 Church St., in Edgartown, by the VTA bus station. For more information, visit their Facebook page.