Food News

A Briny Battle

Local oyster growers compete for shellfish glory at Bristol Oyster Bar

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If you attend the final night of Oyster Madness on April 3, you will receive eight free oysters. But there are two rules, according to Peter Sebring, owner of Bristol Oyster Bar and the festival’s founder: “You’ve got to vote on your favorite, and you’ve got to eat them naked.”

“We were watching March Madness a couple years ago,” recalls Sebring, “and one of the managers said, ‘We should do something like that.’” He started the basketball-themed competition in 2017. This year, 16 contenders are returning to vie for the championship trophy.

As Sebring notes, the festival, which celebrates oyster cultivation, is all in good fun. All month, local growers have showcased their shellfish to Oyster Bar customers, hoping to advance through the brackets. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually slow, especially in the colder months, but competition nights can draw 60 to 80 customers. The growers themselves are often present to enjoy a drink and sound off about aquaculture.

“A lot of them will show up when their oysters are on the docket,” says Sebring. “You can talk with the growers, ask them questions. It’s a small [community], and we all know each other.”

Winners will be announced on social media the following morning, and the trophy will be etched with their names and displayed at the restaurant. Bristol