There’s a new spot in town that’s getting a tremendous amount of hype…and for good reason. Seabear Oyster Bar recently opened in Bottleworks, right across from Hendershot’s and Viva! Argentine Cuisine. The atmosphere is intimate and comfortable, and it’s operated by friends, which gives one the sense of being part of the community while dining there.
Seabear, which is owned by Peter Dale, Patrick Stubbers and Chris Luken, does things a little differently by combining a unique dining experience with a comfortable neighborhood restaurant.
I met with Peter Dale and Patrick Stubbers, two of Athens’ most respected chefs and restaurant owners. In a way, both were initially self-taught and built their careers around a love of friendships and great food.
Peter Dale is best-known as the owner and head chef at The National, where he creates fresh, European-influenced dishes. Dale’s cooking background includes an internship in Spain, as well as an apprenticeship with Hugh Acheson at 5&10. Many of Athens’ greatest chefs have worked with Acheson, and Dale is definitely one of the most influential. Dale has also hosted casual dinner parties at his home, where Stubbers was a guest, during which he developed not only his skill, but also his philosophy of food.
Patrick Stubbers is known as a former chef of the legendary Four Coursemen Supper Club. The Four Coursemen was started by a group of friends including some of Athens’ best when it comes to food and wine. The supper club was their hobby and passion, so naturally it grew, becoming one of the most sought after underground dining experiences in the Southeast. Stubbers also worked in the kitchen at The National with Dale, where a friendship was formed and the idea for Seabear began.
Seabear is the first full oyster bar in Athens. And although they offer other menu items, the oysters definitely steal the show. When asked about the idea behind the restaurant, Dale and Stubbers spoke of comfort, community, and the intricacies of each oyster. Dale said he prefers food that is light, tasty and easy.
“That food speaks to me,” he said.
Dale’s inspiration comes from Mary’s Fish Camp in New York City, where a small dining space encourages people to get to know their neighbor.
“Oysters give you a chance to talk to people,” Stubbers said. “You can sit with a tray of oysters and some wine and have a conversation with others”.
There are around twelve hundred brands of oysters on the East coast alone, not including Canada. According to Dale and Stubbers, each oyster has a story and a unique flavor created by the environment in which it develops. They explained that the temperature and nutrient variations of the water changes the taste, allowing for a wide range of flavors. Stubbers also discussed how oysters that are farmed along the coasts are individualized by each farmer’s signature, which means they customize the exterior shell to their preference.
Dale prefers West Coast oysters that are smaller in size and have a creamy flavor, but Stubbers’ current favorites are from Long Island, New York and Massachusetts.
“[They’re] plump and wonderful, with a celery and sage flavor,” Stubbers said.
However, for anyone who is new to oysters, Stubbers recommends trying Canadian oysters, which have a clean and briny taste.
Seabear currently has several oysters to choose from, and it’s almost oyster season so soon there will be even more options. Seabear would like to invite everyone to drop by, try a variety and discover their favorite kind. Any of the staff, including Dale and Stubbers, would be happy to talk oysters and make a recommendation. For more information about Seabear check out www.seabearoysterbar.com.
Side Note: Oysters are also doing great things for the environment and are utilized to clean our water and rebuild reef structures on the East Coast. To learn more, visit the Billion Oyster Project at www.billionoysterproject.org