Raising the (oyster) bar

19 Raw offers much more than just shuckers.


What’s the first food someone might associate with Martha’s Vineyard in the summertime? It sure isn’t grapes.

For me, oysters are the quintessential foodstuff of the Island. There are several aquaculture farms operating out of local waters that use current best practices to harvest delicious oysters and other bivalve bounties. Of course, you can always buy oysters from a lot of these farms directly, or find their products in fish markets across the Island. But often the most enjoyable way to slurp down a delicious oyster is when it’s being served to you at a bar or restaurant, alongside a frothy local beer, or an ice-cold cocktail.

Down at the Church Street visitors’ center in Edgartown, 19 Raw is the perfect place to share a dozen (or a couple of dozen) oysters with friends, family, or a special date. I went to visit the oyster bar with a couple of friends on a sunny and breezy evening — it was a perfect start to the season of eating outdoors.

Let’s start with the scenery: The outdoor patio area is small, so it was a lucky break that we were able to find a nice table partially shaded and partially in the bright sun. Those in my party who brought sunglasses sat in the sun, and those who didn’t sat in the shade. Our table was situated right under a tree that was raining electric-pink cherry blossoms, and there was some laidback house music playing in the background.

Of course, I started off with a crisp and hoppy Maya Mae from Wash Ashore Beer Co. in Portland, Maine. It’s one of my favorite beers because it’s got a good bite with a high ABV, but it’s smooth and sessionable. I also tried a specialty mango margarita that our waiter recommended — the tahini and salt on the brim were a nice touch. My friend, intrigued by the menu description of the Tiki Fire, decided to try it out. It came out with a smoking garnish of lime, and was made with rum, pineapple, and Coco Lopez.

After a proper amount of imbibing, it was time for food. We started by selecting some oysters from the menu: six Honeysuckle, six Signature (both out of Katama), and six East Beach Blonde from Charlestown, R.I. This was my first time this season eating oysters, and they went down easy. Following the oysters, my friends and I chose two small plates to kick-start our palate. The Tuna Poke ($22) with tahini-sesame vin, mango, daikon, and malanga chips was fresh and delicious. The Filet Mignon Tartare ($24) with toast points and capers melted in your mouth, and wasn’t too salty.

At that point, I think the group realized our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We decided to finish off the evening with a massive Skirt Steak ($43) and a side that was almost as gargantuan as the steak — a one-pound baked potato loaded with bacon, scallions, and sour cream ($16). After sharing the steak and potato, we each had one more drink, watched the cherry blossoms fall, and enjoyed the bustling din of the imminent summer.

For your next outing in Edgartown, consider checking out 19 Raw on Church Street if you’re looking for fresh oysters, a really enchanting and comfortable outdoor dining space, and some fancier eats, like seafood, crudo, steaks, and signature cocktails.

19 Raw, 19 Church St., Edgartown. Visit 19rawoysterbar.com for menus, hours, events, and more.