Oyster Boy
By YP Contributor

Heroes on the Half Shell

For Adam Colquhoun, bivalves are a beautiful thing. And at his Queen West seafood restaurant Oyster Boy, Adam shares his passion for oysters with folks from Toronto and all over the world.

Oyster Boy’s official slogan is “Mollusks for the Masses,” inspired by the fascinating history of oysters and cuisine. Before they became a gourmet favourite, they were largely a working-class staple. The mission of Oyster Boy is to make shellfish accessible to everyone. Says Adam, “We aim for a casual, east-coast-pub feeling.”

This casual yet chic philosophy extends to the restaurant’s ambience. While the selection of baked or fried oysters is top-notch, the space has an unpretentious cabin-like décor with walls displaying the art and ephemera of oyster fishery. While the tables and bar are usually filled up by 6 p.m., the ambience is never too boisterous. In a clamshell, you could say, Adam has created a space where time slows down a little so that you can sit back and savour some good conversation and delicious seafood.

I put my energy into doing what’s best for the guests. - Adam Colquhoun, owner
Oyster Boy, Oysters, Colville Bay, Seafood, Catering, Dining, Wholesale

The Origins of Oyster Boy

Adam started Oyster Boy in 1992. “I came to Toronto at the beginning of the microbrewing industry and went to work for Upper Canada for nine years,” he says. “While I was there, I began doing oyster nights at places like College Street Bar.”

Adam’s connections in the hospitality industry (“I’ve been working in food service since I was 12 years old,” he says) also led him to diversify. On top of running a restaurant, he and his partners John Petcoff and Chris Field operate a catering and wholesale service. “We sell to over 100 different restaurants and hotels,” says Adam. “And we teach shucking lessons. We’re a shellfish education centre.”

While Adam used to compete in oyster shucking competitions, he gave it up to focus on the business. “I put my energy into doing what’s best for the guests.”

Oyster Boy, Oysters, Colville Bay, Seafood, Catering, Dining, Wholesale

A Serious Selection

Oyster Boy has become an institution on the Queen West strip. Now Magazine has named it best seafood restaurant for several years in a row in its annual Best of Toronto Reader’s Poll. Its well-edited but diverse menu also includes hearty chowders, fish tacos, lobster rolls and crispy fried onion rings served with a zesty aioli.

Still, it’s the bivalves that keep oyster connoisseurs coming back for more. The selection of briny beauties includes raw Malpeques from Prince Edward Island, Caraquets from New Brunswick and organic Royal Miyagis from B.C. “Our most popular oysters are from Colville Bay in Souris, P.E.I.,” says Adam.

The staff is another big part of the Oyster Boy experience. Servers and bartenders are trained for six months in the art of shucking. Even if you’ve never eaten an oyster in your life, the knowledgeable staff is happy to hand out pro-tips (the most elegant way to eat them is to give the meat a little poke with your index finger to help it slide off the shell, says Adam).

As for his own education, Adam says he has learned valuable lessons from his customers. “I had a little epiphany about nine years ago,” he says. “I realized that every moment is new for everyone, every time. When I see someone try an oyster for the first time, it’s awesome.”

Oyster Boy, Oysters, Colville Bay, Seafood, Catering, Dining, Wholesale
Close menu