Drivers casting their eyes randomly about, desperate for a diversionary glance at anything besides traffic and out of state plates between the concrete shoulders of I-95 may settle their gaze on a new brick building on the waterfront of Bridgeport harbor. Slightly reminiscent of a lighthouse, it sits at the other side of the new development in Steelpointe Harbor from Bass Pro Shops, and - as of this week - houses the new Boca Oyster Bar. CTBites hit the bar during their soft open at the end of May to give you this first look.
The entrance to Boca is through the building's main lobby, and the first impression is: this place is big. Taking up a significant portion of the ground floor, the oyster bar has a capacity of 170 inside, and room for a further 130 on the outdoor waterside deck, complete with full outdoor bar and marina. Appropriately with the name, you are immediately met with a big, rectangular bar just through the front door, and the restaurant continues to the back, walled by windows overlooking the harbor throughout.
The bar's 16 taps offer a de rigeur list, ranging from Miller Lite and Peroni, to Two Roads, NEBCo, and Lawson's, and you can expect to pay between $8-10 per pint. The location is as much a draw as the food and drink, and I'd guess the usual crowd will be split about 50/50 between people coming specifically to eat and those who just want to hang out at the bar or deck.
The menu is largely unselfconscious and traditional - with seafood grilled and fried, calamari, steak and salad options, particularly good looking clams casino, and appetizer heavy, befitting the role for bar plates - but there are a few twists here and there. The raw bar has the necessary clams, shrimp, chilled lobster tails and yes, oysters (local Copp's Island at the time of this writing, but with Pacific varieties to come), but then you see something called a Baller: 16 clams, two dozen oysters, 16 shrimp, ceviche, and a brace of lobster tails, all yours for just $257. You should be able to dig that up between the seats of your Bentley, right? Kitchen Manager Dino DiGirolamo has added a smattering of Italian dishes, like cioppino, lobster ravioli, and a selection of flatbread pizzas to the menu, and has tapped chef Francisco Lopez from their time together at Prime 111 for the job.
Dino calls out the tuna tartare, with ahi, avocado, and tomatoes, dosed with soy ginger sauce and served in a wonton chip bowl, as one of his favorites on the menu. Dino was joined by at least two other staff members in recommending the 72-hour marinated filet tips over garlic whipped potatoes as a go-to appetizer.
The oysters I had were perfect - firm and sweet under a few drops of mignonette - and the Boca ceviche was stuffed with Maine lobster, bay scallops, and mango. I could have done with more citrus in this one, but the supplied lemon wedge added some needed acidity. A return trip might result in a long look at the ahi and crunchy cod tacos, with a lingering glance at the steak sandwich on a garlic toasted baguette.
For a saltwater port city, Bridgeport has seemed a bit short on seafood, but that has all changed. Within easy sight of the highway, and with slips available for those wishing to boat up from the other direction, Boca Oyster Bar should be seeing a lot of new faces this summer.
Boca Oyster Bar, 10 E. Main St., Bridgeport; bocasteelpointe.com; 203 612 4848