Published: December 13, 2013 | Last Modified: December 18, 2013 12:42PM
By MICHAEL SOUZA Sun Staff Writer
MYSTIC — The Oyster Club on 13 Water St., open for just a shade over two years, has been named the best upscale restaurant in the state by the Connecticut Restaurant Association.
For co-owner and general manager Daniel Meiser, partial owner and executive chef James Wayman, and business partner Jason Steadman, the recognition is a testament to the passion and hard work of everyone involved. A little innovative thinking doesn’t hurt, either.
Their success was acknowledged at the annual Salute to Excellence Dinner, hosted by the association at Mohegan Sun on Dec. 3. Last year, Connecticut Magazine named the restaurant as having the best seafood in the state.
The restaurant has been open only since Sept. 28, 2011.
“We are still a relatively new restaurant, but what I think we’ve brought to the area, and to the state, is an enthusiasm for the products we work with and what we do with them,” Meiser said. “The meat from local farms, the seafood from local fishermen or the beers and the wine we serve. We take it very seriously. The way we cook is the way Americans ate before World War II, and is the same way people across the world eat today and always have.
“It’s shopping daily. It’s sourcing locally. It’s eating seasonally.”
The owners are proud of the results, the dining experience, the food and the building. Meiser said that Wayman and his team were magicians in the kitchen.
“What they put out there is amazing and people recognize that,” he said.
Wayman, 41, has been in the business his whole career. He gives his staff a lot of credit for their success because they share the same passion.
“You can’t do it alone,” he said.
The two say they are lucky to be located in Mystic because the farmers and fishermen here give them quality food to work with.
“They make it easier for us to let the food shine on the plate,” Wayman said.
After opening, the dining spot was very busy by the next spring, and the demand was too much for the restaurant’s seating capacity of about 60.
“We were turning away 70-100 people a night,” Meiser said.
Wayman and Meiser liked the view on the ledge in the rear of the building, overlooking the river, and imagined that a few picnic tables would be nice. Being industrious, they broke out the tape measure and envisioned what is now known as the Treehouse. The outdoor bar and deck tucked away in the trees with a view of the Mystic River became a reality thanks to some clever planning. Completed and used this year, there might be nothing like it along the entire coastline.
“It’s a different experience, maybe a little more casual and family friendly,” Meiser said.
Said Wayman: “It’s unique. It’s on a hill looking down at the river and we cook for you, basically right there.”
They are also planning to open a butcher shop and another restaurant (see related story, this page).
Local purveyors are a key to the business. Most of what they serve originates within 30 miles of Mystic. In the winter, for example, most of the fresh vegetables are grown in area greenhouses.
Wayman, a native North Carolinian, was previously executive chef at River Tavern in Chester for seven years, where he built a reputation for local food. Meiser, 35, grew up in Manchester. He operated several restaurants, including the Firebox Restaurant in Hartford, and after helping to start the restaurant at the Ocean House in Westerly, he fell in love with the area and remained.
Nicole Griffin, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said the Oyster Club was nominated in the upscale restaurant category and a committee of board members narrowed the nominees to five finalists. The nominees were posted on the association’s website and people voted for their favorites over about a two week period.
“Voting was open to the public and we received over 8,000 votes on our website,” Griffin said.
Source : http://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/state/3137145-129/oyster-club-recognized-as-best-upscale-restaurant-in-connecticut.html