One by one, I sucked, slurped, and swallowed fresh oysters from the Washington coast at The Walrus and the Carpenter in Seattle.
Whimsical names including summerstone, indigo, and blue pool complimented the oyster bar, named after a poem by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland.
In the poem, a Walrus and a Carpenter are walking down a beach when the Walrus discovers an oyster bed and convinces the young oysters to leave the sea for "a pleasant walk, a pleasant talk, along the briny beach."
Unfortunately for the naive oysters, they're later eaten by the disingenuous Walrus while the Carpenter is busy buttering bread.
Before arriving in Seattle, Kel and I had re-watched the original 1951 Disney classic, Alice in Wonderland, to refresh our memories; the poem is told to Alice by Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Curious, I suggested we head to dinner at The Walrus and the Carpenter after The Loupe Lounge in the Space Needle.
In old Ballard, a waterfront neighborhood, a neon sign points into an old brick building with Barnacle, a small Italian aperitivo bar serving craft cocktails, and The Walrus bar next door.
The Barnacle bar and The Walrus belong to Sea Creatures, a family of restaurants owned and operated by James Beard Award-winning chef Renee Erickson and partners.
Speaking of James Beard Awards, The Walrus and the Carpenter is a 2022 Finalist for Outstanding Restaurant.
It was about 4:40 p.m. when we arrived, and the oyster bar was already bustling. They don't take reservations, so I wanted to get there early to avoid a wait.
Natural light poured into the space through patio windows, illuminating every detail from the tile floor to exposed wooden rafters.
As we walked inside, I noticed a mountain of butter in a serving bowl on the counter to the left and a plentiful supply of fresh-baked bread.
We had our choice of seating, either scrunched up on metal stools at the bar or a high-top table. For comfort's sake, we chose the latter.
Related: Seattle Speakeasies and Secret Bars
Bread and Butter
Taking after the Carpenter, I ordered bread and butter by Sea Wolf, a local craft bakery by Kit Schumann and Jesse Schumann, 2019 James Beard Award Semifinalists for Outstanding Baker.
While I wouldn't have time to visit their bakery in person this trip, at least I could try their bread, including a white sourdough.
Related: Best Bakeries in San Francisco
Next, I embraced my role as the Walrus and ordered one of each of the seven local oyster varieties being offered at the time.
The list of oysters on the menu progressed from light and sweet to briny (on the tray, they were presented clockwise from sweet to briny).
- Calm Cove - Totten Inlet, WA
- Summerstone - Skunk Island, WA
- Aphrodite - Kilisut Harbor, WA
- Indigo - Hood Head, WA
- Wolf Beach - Totten Inlet, WA
- Judd Cove - Ship Bay, WA
- Blue Pool - Lilliwaup, WA
The Pacific Northwest oysters varied in size from tiny to medium. (The largest oyster I've ever eaten was the size of my palm in Hiroshima, Japan.)
I was accidentally given two of the smallest oysters, Indigo, which happened to be my favorite. Our waitress was kind enough to ensure we weren't charged for it.
The cost of oysters at The Walrus and the Carpenter is based on market rates, which were $3 each.
Related: Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine's
A walrus cannot live on oysters alone, so I ordered one of the small plates, a delicious albacore crudo with Meyer lemon jus, fennel, and blood orange.
Other fish and seafood options included scallop crudo, grilled sardines, fried oysters, and clams.
Steak tartare, chicken liver mousse, beef shank terrine with apricot mostarda, and the cheese plates also appealed to me, but I kept it light as we'd already eaten a bit at the Space Needle.
Plus, I needed to save some room for dessert. Our choices included roasted Medjool dates with vanilla-infused olive oil, a chocolate tart with tahini frosting and sesame cracker, and a black tea panna cotta.
We went with the chocolate tart, made of equal parts pastry crust, chocolate, and frosting. It was a sweet end to a fun meal at The Walrus and the Carpenter.
The bill for seven oysters, bread and butter, and the albacore crudo, plus tax, came out to about $64, which felt like a fair value for the quality and atmosphere.
Note, while Kel joined me for dinner, I was the only one eating, so this price reflects the cost of one person's food.
Had I not come from another bar, I'd have ordered a glass of white wine, bringing the total dinner cost at The Walrus and the Carpenter to about $100, including tip.