Public Fish & Oyster: “The Niche That Cville Needed”

Posted on February 24, 2014 by

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Public Fish & Oyster, 513 West Main St.

Charlottesville’s newest eatery brings us seafood so fresh that upon your first bite, you feel as though you’re in a quaint, waterfront restaurant on a bay in Cape Cod.  As soon as you walk in the door, your mouth begins to water at the sight of the oysters and clams resting on their bed of ice, and the Raw Bar menu on the back wall.

Daniel Kaufman, owner of Public Fish & Oyster, had his head down, shucking away at some oysters when I entered the simple yet elegantly decorated establishment.

“I’m not usually the shucker,” states Daniel, “But being the owner, you have to be able to take on any role at any given time.”

Owner Daniel Kaufman shucking oysters.

Owner Daniel Kaufman shucking oysters.

It’s always been an ambition of Daniel’s to open a restaurant, particularly one in which seafood is the main attraction.

“My mother was English and we would visit the North of England every couple years and I still remember the fish and chips wrapped in newspaper we would often get. I have had good fish and chips stateside but it is never the same as in the UK.”

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When asked how the restaurant acquired its name, Daniel said, “I wanted a name that communicated that everyone is welcome like the idea of a pub or ‘public house’. Now, while we are not a pub, I like what this communicates.  While we certainly strive to have a certain sense of sophistication, I never want the restaurant to feel fussy or stuffy.  We have a very cozy feel and I think that comes across in the name.”

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Daniel describes the food at Public Fish & Oyster to be carefully and attractively prepared. Yet the dishes are simple, with ingredients that are sourced responsibly.

He says that his favorite dish on the menu, created by chef, Matt Turner, is the Rockfish. “The rockfish has the perfect sear and a crispy skin and it really comes alive atop the stone ground grits and ragu.  It’s a dish that screams Virginia.”

Matt Turner, Head Chef

From pork belly sausage, to a colorful beet salad, and NY Strip Steak with Belgian Frites, Public Fish & Oyster’s eclectic menu has something that is guaranteed to satisfy everyone’s palate. 

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I, for one, was intimidated and wary of indulging in my first oysters before Daniel insisted that I try some of the Rappahannock’s. After having them shucked, perfectly dressed, and seasoned, I gulped down my very first oysters, and it was the most uniquely delicious experience I’ve had in a long time.

“We always want Virginia to be well represented.  We will always try to have two Virginia oysters.  Right now we have Rappahannocks from Topping, Va, and Sewansecotts from Hog Island Bay, Va.  We are also planning on having one New England and one Canadian oyster.  Currently these are Katama Bays from Martha’s Vineyard and Malpeques from Prince Edwards Island.”

Not only was the food amazingly satisfying, but the staff was incredibly helpful in the difficult decision-making process of choosing the perfect starter, main, and side dishes.

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Public Fish & Oyster is a wonderfully positive environment for both those enjoying the food, as well as the staff.

“Public Fish & Oyster’s great environment and fresh seafood is what got me back into wanting to work in a restaurant again!” said Karen, server.

Tabitha, another friendly server, said, “The incredibly fresh and delicious seafood is exactly the niche that Charlottesville needed.”

Daniel says that the Public Fish & Oyster team is planning on starting a Sunday brunch which will be shortly followed by lunch service.  “My background is very wine oriented so we start doing some wine dinners from time to time.  Of course we run our happy hour Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6:30 where we feature drink specials as well as specials from our raw bar.”

“It has been a true honor to be a part of the Charlottesville restaurant scene.  Our guests have been wonderful and we very much value all the support as well as feedback we have received since opening a couple of weeks ago.  We look forward to seeing more and more new faces and I hope your readers will join us at PF&O and love the experience.”

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Posted in: food, New to Cville