“As a former New Orleanian, Oyster Fest reminds me of a very happy time of my life where I was learning that I loved all things oysters,” said Emily Mendenhall, owner of Lily’s Dayton. “Food is so connected with memory. Each oyster I get to consume during Oyster Fest transports me to very happy times and I hope others have some fond connections too or will create some with us.”
Mendenhall said Oyster Fest was created by the restaurant’s former Sous Chef James Burton, co-owner of The Pizza Bandit. She noted Burton wanted to introduce something special during an unexciting time of the year.
“Post New Year’s and pre-Valentine’s Day is a tough time for independent restaurants so it’s something special to bring folks in, and also something that is fun for guests too,” Mendenhall said.
During the first year of Oyster Fest, she recalled running out of oysters in two hours, which led them to rethink strategies.
“Each year we’ve fine-tuned more and more, and I think this year really has a beautiful selection of options we can execute well,” she said. “We’ll also have some new cocktail and wine specials from the bar to go with the menu.”
Executive Chef James McBride said Oyster Fest is a fun opportunity to provide something different to the Dayton area.
“Getting the opportunity to expose the customer to several varieties of different oysters, getting to experience the palette difference in East and West Coast oysters, provides an experience for the guest to find a preparation or delicacy they may not have known oysters have,” McBride said.
Mendenhall said if you haven’t had an oyster before, she hopes you will come in and give it a try. She recommends going west coast with cocktail sauce on a saltine as your first raw, and if you like it, then maybe try with mignonette or move on to meatier east coast oysters. She added that fried oysters are also a good starter.
“Our goal is to have something for new oyster people and a lot of the favorites (for) oyster fanatics,” Mendenhall said.
“The menu is tailored to have different experiences of (the) way oysters can be prepared at an affordable price point,” McBride added. “Whether it be the Cochon-feller, which is baked, or eating them on the half shell raw, I think it gives an opportunity to be adventurous.”
Lily’s Dayton, located at 329 E. Fifth St. in Dayton, opens at 4:30 p.m. for dinner service and seats until 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are suggested and can be made online at www.exploretock.com/lilys or by calling 937-723-7637.
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