Bow & Stern Oyster Bar image

Bow & Stern Oyster Bar

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We have a love-hate relationship with Bow & Stern. Here’s why.

Bow & Stern is situated in a great space, and it’s located in the ever-expanding restaurant scene of Noble Square/West Town. It’s off Chicago Ave. just west of I90, so we're fine with you calling it whatever you think the appropriate neighborhood name is, just don’t call it the East Village, because that’s not a term we’ll approve.

Bow & Stern has a lot of exposed brick and a modern sail boat like feel. A large pane of windows up front can be opened in the summer, which allows for fresh air and sunlight, and the added light in the atrium type room adds a feeling of extra space. There’s absolutely no reason why this place shouldn’t be popping off on weekends, especially spring and summer afternoons. We expect it to be filled with people eating mass quantities of oysters and drinking copious amounts of champagne and hoppy beers, so given this feeling, we were recently perplexed when we stopped by for Saturday brunch at a virtually empty Bow & Stern.

So where’s the hate in this relationship? It’s not that the food is all bad, because there are a few fantastic dishes to accompany the quality selection of oysters for both dinner and weekend brunch. But there are a few major problems. Not enough dishes reach an exceptional caliber, the service is hit or miss, and the biggest transgression of all is the fact they run out of sh*t all the time. You can’t specialize in oysters and seafood when you run out of half the oysters and seafood on the menu. We realize stocking the kitchen can be equal parts art and science when trying to serve the freshest fish possible, and not to be harsh, but that’s your job, figure it out.

We still recommend giving it a try, particularly for dinner or if you're in the mood for oysters, plus we'll vouch for some of the food items below. We just hope you can order what you want.

Food Rundown

Bow & Stern Oyster Bar image


There’s no denying the quality selection of both East and West Coast oysters (when available).Served with a smoked tomato cocktail sauce and wasabi mignonette, the cocktail has a distinct smoky taste. There’s a minimum order of 6 at around $2.50 -$3.00 a piece, which is in line with everything else around town. Pop in Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays from 5 to 7PM, plus Fridays from 10PM to midnight for $1 oyster deals.

Challah French Toast

Served with a raspberry mascarpone sauce and candied hazelnuts. Could have gone without the raspberry mascarpone, which was luckily avoidable, but the French toast was still average itself.

Bow Benedict

Smoked whitefish brandade with poached egg, bacon, and hollandaise. A brandade is like a salty fish patty mixed with bread or potatoes as a binder. We had high hopes for this benedict, but the whitefish brandade didn’t taste like whitefish at all. Too much filler.

Bow & Stern Oyster Bar image

Crispy Whole Fish

A really well done piece of whole fried fish. The exact type changes, but it's usually light, flakey, well seasoned, and not overly fried. Will easily feed more than one person, and our go to recommendation for a larger plate.

Maine Mussels

Mussels served in a sauce of smoked tomato, similar to the oyster cocktail sauce, with chilis, cilantro and some ciabatta toast. The mussels were good, and we're fans of the smoky tomato taste.

Burrata and Chips

Probably the best thing we’ve eaten here. An awesome mix consisting of burrata cheese, Brussels sprouts, kale, artichoke, cauliflower, and oyster mushrooms. Order it for starters to share.


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