One of the DC’s biggest foodie parties of the year is around the corner: Old Ebbitt Grill’s Oyster Riot is November 21st and 22nd, when hundreds of lucky diners will slurp, drink and dance their way through the night.
Oyster Riot is an all-you-can-eat-and-drink oysterthon hosted by DC institution restuarant, The Old Ebbitt Grill. For the Riot, OEB takes over the atrium directly behind their downtown restaurant and fills it with a live band and oyster producers from across the country giving diners an amazing opportunity for a side-by-side comparison of oysters from the four corners.
Mike and I attended for the first time last year and loved it. We loved it so much, in fact, that we’re heading back for Round 2 this year. In the weeks leading up to our first experience, I was a little apprehensive. We’d heard horror stories of long lines, sharp elbows and vendors that ran out of oysters. Would this turn out to be a high end foodie fight?
Luckily no, but this is a unique dining experience, without a doubt. We’ve put together some tips for first time Rioters and veterans who, like us, just want to get the most out of their Oyster Riot experience.
Tips after the jump!
1. Get tickets. “Oh, nice” you’re thinking, “tickets sold out in 15 minutes and they’re saying it’s a good idea to have some. How helpful.” Well, first of all, we did warn you. But we’re not just rubbing sea salt in the wound. If you didn’t manage to get Oyster Riot tickets directly from the source, you still have a chance to attend. A recent search on Craigslist showed at least 20 tickets for sale from private scalpers vendors, but you will pay for the timeliness. If you haven’t been saving your stimulus check for this very occassion and opt to wait and fight for tickets next year, mark your calendar now: Tickets traditionally go on sale the Tuesday after Labor Day.
2. Have a game plan. Think about what you want to get out of the experience. A chance to try dozens of new oysters? A romantic night of eating, drinking, and dancing? Pure gluttony? The sheer scale of Oyster Riot allows you to choose the type of experience you want to have. Plan accordingly. Last year, Mike and I wanted to try as many oysters as possible before sliding right into gluttony territory with our favorite oyster (which, as always, is Raspberry Point). While waiting in line for the doors to open, we completely geeked out with the oyster stall map, plotting out who we wanted to hit first and where we figured we could buckle down. In the same vein, we opted to not turn in our “shrimp stub,” the numbered tab at the end of every ticket, for the shrimp shack goodie box until the end of the night. The box contains even more seafood glory with 4 jumbo shrimp and 3 Jonah crab claws. Delicious, yes, but also filling (see Tip #5).
3. Dress for the occassion. It is a nice event but dress varies from tuxedoes to skirts and sweaters. I’d say somewhere in the middle is ideal. But the real message here is this: There are very few seats and it is a very big room. You will be on your feet for at least 3 hours. You may or may not dance using oyster shells as castanets. Think hard about which shoes you wear that evening.
4. Make friends with the also-rans. Oysters aren’t the only bottomless menu item: In the days leading up to the big event OEB organizers and judges taste and rank over 300 varieties of wine to determine the medal winners. Winners are displayed prominently throughout the floor while runners up are available in the back room. Many of these wines are delcious and it’s a great opportunity to sip some new varieties without a purchase committment. Bonus: the lines in the back hall are much shorter.
5. Know your limits. White wine and oysters are an ideal pair. Studies have shown elements in white wine can kill bacteria found in seafood, helping to reduce the likelihood of food-related illnesses. But I don’t think any amount of white wine can wash away the effects of oyster overkill. Or a combined overindulgence of oysters and wine. :: shudders :: As easy as it may be to go a little nuts, keep tabs on how much your stomach is enjoying the party.
That’s it! If you have tickets in hand, get ready to enjoy one of the top food parties DC has to offer. Are you an Oyster Riot veteran? Chime in with any tips or tricks we didn’t cover.