Classic Cocktails and French Whites Await at Olympia Oyster Bar

Maylin Chavez and Melissa Mayer opened Olympia Oyster Bar at the end of 2015. It was the final opening in a slew of restaurant debuts last year, and it is a welcome addition. The goal is simple: Pacific oysters, presented as perfectly as possible. Likewise, the cocktail menu, designed by bar consultant and cocktailer extraordinaire, Ryan Magarian, is an exercise in simplicity.  
 
Magarian, whose other credits in Portland include Oven & Shaker and Hamlet, is an industry veteran of 20 some years. He’s a writer, radio host, restaurateur, consultant, and distiller (his spirit: the widely renowned Aviation Gin). And while he serves as a consultant to many bars nation-wide, he generally declines consulting with Portland bars. Olympia Oyster Bar is the exception, though he prefers to label it as “a friend lending a hand”. He’s not fully engaged, but wrote the menu and staffed it with his own personally trained bartenders.
 
The menu was originally conceived as innovative, original cocktails. However, after Ryan saw the straight-forward, pure food menu, he adjusted to the “reality of the menu”. Now, the drink menu is an extension of the kitchen’s and is inhabited entirely by classic drinks.
 
When developing a menu full of classics the trick is to “nail them”. Luckily, that’s largely accomplished here. The bulk of the drinks are citrus based, offering the necessary acid to pair with the oysters, such as the crowd pleasing Brown Derby, a mixture of Elijah Craig 12 Year, grapefruit juice, and just a dash of honey syrup to enliven it. Others rely on only spirits and zest: The Martini, made with Plymouth gin, Noilly Prat dry vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters, is revelatory, as is the Manhattan, with Elijah Craig Bourbon, Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. As surprising as the vermouth choice in the latter might be, it works remarkably well. Both drinks are fully integrated and rise above the sum of their parts. The rest of the menu, which is certain to rotate seasonally, is full of similarly bright, fresh drinks with bubbles, acid, and zest to compliment whatever oysters you choose. 

Simon Lowry is the “wine ambassador” at Olympia, guiding guests through the exemplary, yet accessible, wine list curated by owners Chavez and Mayer. Wine and sparkling wines take precedence and there is an emphasis on Old World wines, particularly from Lowry’s home country of France, and specifically from the Loire Valley. Muscadet, sancerre, Champagne, and cava all pair elegantly with the shellfish. But there are new world wines as well, including the always excellent Gruet Sparkling Rosé which hails from, shockingly, New Mexico. There are also a few red wines, including an Oregon pinot noir from a Californian winemaker, Siduri Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Like the Manhattan, the red wine pairs surprisingly well with oysters, even the raw ones. 

Olympia is a risky venture; almost the entire menu is oysters, with few larger plates for full meals. It’s definitively a bar, with an emphasis on having drinks and wine paired with your plates of oysters, though it closes at 10 PM. But the ambience strikes a balance between homey and chic; the staff is clearly invested, friendly, and professional, working as a transparent team shucking oysters directly in front of guests; and the beverage menu works in harmony with the food, both already excellent but even better together.


Olympia Oyster Bar, 4214 N Mississippi St.; 503-841-6316

Photos by Alexander Frane

 


Tags: Cocktails, Food, Spirits, Wine
Recent Articles
spacer

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Lompoc Brewery Hosts Kung-Fu and IPA Night

Lompoc Brewery Hosts Kung-Fu and IPA Night

This Thursday, May 22 at 4 PM and 7 PM, Lompoc Brewery will be releasing six new IPAs at Sidebar on North Williams. In addition, guests will be treate...read more ›

by Alexander Frane May 22, 2017
Rejoice: Burger King is Now Serving Booze

Rejoice: Burger King is Now Serving Booze

A Whopper and fries (along with some cheap chicken nuggets) makes a great post-drunk fill-up, but now thanks to the geniuses at the Burger King corpor...read more ›

by Ryan Hudak May 19, 2017
Thu
May 25
Sidebar on North Williams 
Thu
May 25
Sidebar on North Williams 
Wed
Jun 21
SPONSORED
You Can Now Visit an Inflatable Version of Moe's Tavern from 'The Simpsons'

You Can Now Visit an Inflatable Version of Moe's Tavern from 'The Simpsons'

Have you ever wanted to visit the iconic Moe's Tavern from The Simpsons? Well, unless you live in Eugene, OR, ...read more ›

by Alexander Frane May 19, 2017
Portland Bartenders Compete for Most Imaginative Bartender Title

Portland Bartenders Compete for Most Imaginative Bartender Title

The United States Bartending Guild is holding the regionals for its annual Most Imaginative Bartender Competition, hosted by Bombay Sapphire, on Monda...read more ›

by Alexander Frane May 19, 2017
Eric Wareheim of 'Master of None' & 'Tim and Eric' Is the Latest Celebrity to Release a Wine

Eric Wareheim of 'Master of None' & 'Tim and Eric' Is the Latest Celebrity to Release a Wine

Plenty of celebrities are releasing wine these days, and Eric Wareheim, famous for both Master of None and Tim...read more ›

by The Drink Nation May 17, 2017
A Booze-Infused Ice Cream Shop Just Opened in NYC

A Booze-Infused Ice Cream Shop Just Opened in NYC

Ah, the Big Apple, always providing the rest of the country with great art, culture, theater and now-perhaps the best innovation to date-the ice cream...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio May 17, 2017
A 100-Year-Old British Man Won Beer For Life

A 100-Year-Old British Man Won Beer For Life

A landlord at a Manchester pub promised a then 92-year-old Arthur Johnson, about eight years ago, that when he turned 100 he'd be entitled to free bee...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio May 17, 2017
Lagunitas Sells Second Half of Stake to Heineken

Lagunitas Sells Second Half of Stake to Heineken

Lagunitas Brewing has announced that it will be selling the last 50% of its stake to Heineken International, The Chicago Tribune reports. ...read more ›

by Alexander Frane May 17, 2017
Sake Fest Returns to the Oregon Convention Center

Sake Fest Returns to the Oregon Convention Center

Experience the finest Japanese and US sake brands at the only event of its kind in the Northwest. ...read more ›

by Carrie Dow May 17, 2017
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close