Row 34: A Workingman's Oyster Bar
Story by Mandi Tompkins
Photos by Jenn Bakos
An oyster’s sweet taste is a representation of its environment, taking on the essence of the world it lives and grows in. Fort Point restaurant Row 34 has embraced this very essence, curating ingredients from local farms to create simple, fresh seafood designed for the workingman.
Opened in 2013 by Chef Jeremy Sewall and Skip Bennett, this industrial-chic eatery has quickly become the standard for contemporary New England seafood in Boston. No surprise coming from the master Chef behind Lineage and Island Creek Oyster Bar, and the founder and owner of Island Creek Oysters (ICO) (see page 28). Chef Sewall and Bennett met after Sewall moved back to Boston to take on the position of Executive Chef at Great Bay in 2002. Sewall visited the oyster farm shortly thereafter – the very first chef to do so – and the two naturally became partners.
The name Row 34 comes from a special place, and a special oyster, in Duxbury Bay. The farm decided to experiment with a new type of oyster that would have a distinct and different flavor from their traditional Island Creek variety. At the time, the farm only had 33 rows of trays in the harbor, and these new oysters became the 34th row. Originally crafted for Island Creek Oyster Bar, these oysters eventually lent their name to the restaurant.
The modern and slightly industrial restaurant has already become a favorite amongst locals, with a little something for every palette. Oysters are, of course, a staple, but the lobster rolls are what have put them on the map. Served two ways, these delicacies force patrons to make a difficult decision – warm buttery goodness or the tried and true blend of mayo and celery?
When asked which lobster roll he likes best, the Chef responded, “That’s like asking which kid I like better. I can’t answer that. I love both.”
All the cuisine cooked by Sewall and his team at Row 34 is made with local and regional ingredients. He partners with several farms, including Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon, Massachusetts and Buckle Farm in Unity, Maine. The restaurants seafood is delivered daily from Cape Cod, his cousin Mark who runs a lobster boat, and of course ICO.
The oyster bar also pays homage to the beer lovers amongst us. They have an impressive list of local, unique beers that have been carefully chosen to accent the menu. They consistently carry beers from Trillium Brewing Company and Jack’s Abby, and often have other goodies up their sleeves. Try asking for their off-menu selection, you never know what you might get.
The simple, seasonal nature of Chef Sewall’s recipes will come to life in his first cookbook 'The New England Kitchen: Fresh Takes on Seasonal Recipes' set to release this coming fall. The cookbook, which includes more than 100 New England inspired recipes and profiles of local producers, is based on the seasons. It will share the journey that our food takes from farm and fishery to the table in our favorite restaurants.
Staying true to his belief in supporting local business, Chef Sewall’s book will be available in such small shops as Wellesley Booksmith, Brookline Booksmith, and Farm & Fable in Boston’s South End. Soon enough, recipes like Sweet Corn, Bacon, and Crab Chowder, and Maple-Brined Pork Rack with Apple and Leeks will be coming to life in kitchens around New England.