Restaurant: L&W Oyser Co. – 254 5th Avenue, Manhattan, New York
The restaurant can best be described as black and white. It gives off both a casual and upscale vibe at the same time that portrays casual elegance. Don’t get the impression that the folks at L&W are suffering from an identity crisis. Quite the opposite. They’ve captured your typical “by the beach” seafood house and brought it to Manhattan – casual during the day but classy at night. The interior features whitewashed booths, industrial copper lighting fixtures providing light to a row of booths, black wood floors and your typical beach-themed artifacts.
The menu at L&W (note that this is slightly outdated as the menu is evolving) immediately threw me off. It’s organized in a very creative way. There isn’t a dedicated section for appetizers, entrees, sides, etc. Instead, L&W categorizes its food by ‘small things,’ ‘medium things,’ ‘bigger things,’ ‘booze stuff,’ ‘sparkly stuff,’ etc. I felt like this was almost liberating and allowed me to peruse the entire menu without being confined to ordering one thing from each category.
I’m a sucker for clam chowder so I of course had to give the Brooklyn Clam Chowder a try. This cream-based chowder wasn’t your typical New England clam chowder or your Manhattan clam chowder. It’s a hybrid made with beer from the Brooklyn brewery. The color may have been slightly off-putting – tan, off-whiteish – but the chowder itself was delicious. It had enough small bits of mussels in it and was a nice consistency (not too liquidy and not too thick) to keep me happy. There were also small crunchy nuggets in it as well which I believe were taking the place of your usual oyster crackers. This was a nice way to differentiate this chowder from others.
Next up was a Cioppino (fish stew) complete with mussels, chorizo, other seafood goodness I can’t remember, all topped with a small pile of yellow rice. There were lots of mussels in this dish and I loved the combination with the seafood combination with the chorizo. I was stuffed afterward and didn’t have any bread to mop up the stew but am sure it would have been just as delicious as everything else was.
Our waiter was very enthusiastic and on top of everything from the start. The food came out at a steady pace and our wine and water glasses were consistently refilled. What more can you ask for? Unfortunately, the service did slightly deteriorate toward the end of the meal and we were left waiting to order dessert for quite some time.
L&W is on the pricier side, with oysters around $3 each, ‘small things’ and ‘medium things’ around $13-$16 and ‘big things’ in the upper $20 range. That being said, if you’re willing to spend some money, L&W has a menu set up for exploration.
L&W Oyster Co. does the perfect job of combining casual and elegant along with delicious food. The relaxed atmosphere puts you at ease as you look through a menu that disrupts the traditional way food is supposed to be ordered. I loved the Brooklyn Clam Chowder and the Cioppino and would gladly visit L&W again to try some of the other items on the menu. If you’re in the Flatiron District and looking for some seafood, you won’t be disappointed with L&W Oyster Co.