Who knew? Right here in my own neighborhood! South Bend is the town just up the road from our little Bay Center hamlet. Wish we liked to eat oysters, but neither of us do so living in what is named as South Bend – the ‘Oyster Capital of the World’ isn’t quite the draw for us. The region, the geography, the people, living off the I-5 corridor or as one of the local people calls the area – ‘God’s Valium’. One apt name, there are others that try to describe this pristine wilderness paradise gem in Pacific County.
article; New York Times; South Bend, Wash:; Chester Tavern, Sept 30, 2007
Not so at the Chester Tavern. In this unprepossessing bar in South Bend (1005 West Robert Bush Drive, 360-875-5599), on Willapa Bay near the Washington coast, oysters are deep-fried with the kind of fanatical care you might expect in the self-proclaimed “oyster capital of the world.” (One in six oysters consumed in the United States come from the bay, according to the local Chamber of Commerce.)
No overbattered blobs here. The three-inch oysters — selected by the graders at the Coast Oyster plant — get a mere dusting of cornmeal and are fried in clean, unfiltered vegetable oil at 350 degrees, hot enough to seal in the sublime juices.
The result is sweet like corn bread, briny like the sea, creamy as a raw oyster and greaseless enough for even the calorie-concerned to down a dozen. Seven dollars buys six oysters with French fries, and $3 more gets the perfect chaser, a Fish Tale organic amber ale. For what may be the best fried oysters in the country, this is a bargain well worth the roughly two-hour drive from Seattle (or even a $318 round-trip flight from New York on JetBlue).
The genius behind the shell is Tim Sedgwick, who worked in the garment business in Seattle until 1994, when he bought the bar and began developing his oyster recipe. Oysters have since become the family business — Mr. Sedgwick’s daughter Amy was nominated for a regional Emmy for her public-television documentary “Shucks: An Oyster Story.”
Mr. Sedgwick is no monomaniac, however. Researching the history of the tavern, which dates from 1897, also occupies his time. A secret poker room once stood outside the building, he said, and big black-and-white photos over the pool tables show Oscar Chester, the original owner, who happened to be the town sheriff.