Local oyster grower wins ‘championshuck’

Chessawanock Island Oyster Company wins Bristol Oyster Bar’s Oyster Madness competition

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An oyster farm on Hog Island off Bristol’s coast has the best tasting oysters in Rhode Island, at least according to voters at the Bristol Oyster Bar Tuesday night.

Chessawanock Island Oyster Company, based on Hog Island and owned by local resident Kyle Hess, won the “championshuck” at the inaugural Oyster Madness competition at the Hope Street restaurant. Sixteen oyster growers from around the state competed in the March Madness-style tournament that played out over the past five Tuesday nights at the oyster bar. After four rounds, Chessawanock and Breachway, from Charlestown, faced off in the final blind taste test, with the locals winning the vote.

“It was a good event. The idea was really cool. There’s nothing else like this around, as far as we’ve seen,” said oyster bar owner Pete Sebring before the final vote Tuesday. “They’re all competing for bragging rights.”

As were the customers at Bristol Oyster Bar. During Oyster Madness, each guest in the restaurant was given a free plate oysters from farms all around the state. The only rules were the oysters must be eaten plain and the customers had to vote for their favorite. Guests also filled out their brackets, choosing their favorite oyster grower in each round, and winning prizes for the best picks. Regular customer Knight Hess, brother of the Chessawanock owner, made the best picks, winning a chef’s dinner for six at the oyster bar.

The competition brought customers coming back each week, including Jason Santos, who made the trip from Fall River for a couple rounds, including the final Tuesday.

“It’s a wonderful time; it just amplifies a Tuesday night in the middle of the week,” Mr. Santos said.

“We’re happy to support the oyster farms,” said Jen Gowans from Fall River. “It’s a great way to learn about all the oysters.”

That was part of the goal of the competition, Mr. Sebring said. It wasn’t just to showcase the growers, but also to teach consumers about a plentiful resource in the waters right off our coast.

“The customers get a little knowledge and experience the different oysters around Rhode Island,” Mr. Sebring said.

Bristol Oyster Bar, in the old Custom House at 448 Hope St., is open Tuesday-Thursday, 4-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 4-10 p.m.; and Sunday, 4-9:30 p.m. Monday hours will be added in May, and the outdoor patio is scheduled to open beginning in May and June, Mr. Sebring said. In addition to oysters, the restaurant offers a full menu, focusing on unique seafood dishes, as well as stack, chicken and pork plates. For more information or a look at the menu, visit www.bristoloysterbar.com.

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