DUXBURY – For Island Creek Oysters owner Skip Bennett, his latest venture represents a meld of Duxbury's past as a shipbuilding town and its present role in the oyster business.
"We've taken on a new identity, which is an oyster town," Bennett said as he walked through Island Creek's recently acquired restaurant property, the Winsor House Inn, which was built in 1803.
Located just across the street from Bennett's oyster hatchery and its seaside Raw Bar, the Winsor House is Bennett's third restaurant. It opened mid-November and is already booked solid three weeks out, he said. The building was once home to sea captain Nathaniel Winsor, and the building's first restaurant opened in 1932.
Island Creek renovated the building's interior. Bennett said there were a few things in the restaurant layout he wanted to update.
Strolling through the restaurant, Bennett pointed to one of the dining rooms just inside the front door.
By knocking down a wall that separated that dining room from the front section of the restaurant, the first floor became more open and allowed more natural light to brighten the entire restaurant.
That solved the poor lighting in a dining room that no one wanted to use, Bennett said.
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Though the Winsor House carries a lot of history in its own right, Bennett described how they updated portions of the building to reflect that history with more flair, while mixing in Island Creek's story for good measure.
One dining area in the back of the Winsor House, for example, features a new, large, three-panel painting by Scituate artist Michael Coyne.
The ship in the center panel was built in Duxbury, Bennett said. The captain of the ship was George Winsor, the man who built the room where the painting is on display. .
"So we really tried to play on the old and the new," Bennett said, "the high-brow, low-brow."
Island Creek Oysters straddles the line between fancy food and fishermen's grub, offering both a $9 burger and a $45 slice of cake, Bennett said.
The dessert, called "olive oil cake" on the menu, comes with crème fraîche ice cream,
orange curd and caviar.
Customers can sit at the raw bar and eat freshly shucked oysters, or fan out into one of the dining areas and relax on pillow-lined benches.
The menu abounds with fresh catches found just across the street in Duxbury Bay, including driveway clams served with chorizo, sofrito, shelling bean and sherry, and scallops with shallots, garlic, white wine and herbs.
Or take that $9 burger and add fried oysters for another $4.
At one of the restaurant's larger bars, the focus is on rum, Bennett said. As a coastal community, Duxbury had active rum-running during Prohibition, he said. So as an ode to that history, the bar offers a rum old-fashioned along with barrels of aging rum.
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Since the restaurant opened, business has been brisk. After nearly a year of renovations and planning, it feels novel seeing people finally having fun at the bar, he said.
"I think that was really what the vibe that we were going for was," Bennett said. "Most of the things we try to do are just, 'Let's have fun.'
"If we have fun, everything else seems to just work."
If you go
What: The Winsor House at Island Creek Oysters
When: 4-10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: 390 Washington St., Duxbury
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Reach Alex Weliever at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Duxbury's Island Creek Oysters debuts new restaurant in Winsor House