Dan Lewis

Coastal Provisions Wine Bar & Oyster Bar Cafe, Southern Shores NC

Dan Lewis, co-owner of Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar & Wine Café, has made it a point to showcase North Carolina oysters in recent years, claiming to have one of the best oyster selections on the East Coast.

But his restaurant didn’t start out that way. Lewis and business partner Scott Foster first opened a retail seafood store in 2006, which he expanded to include a wine bar and dinner service in 2010. Two years later, he expanded to full lunch and dinner offerings and added the oyster bar.

Since then, his oyster offerings have continued expanding as the mariculture industry grows in North Carolina. He typically has 15-20 varieties, with about half from North Carolina, and sometimes as many as a dozen. Lewis purchases almost all of his oysters from mariculture operations, and a few varieties are wild caught sustainably.

Lewis purchases some of his oysters directly from local growers, and he enjoys visiting their leases. The Outer Banks Restaurant Association, of which he is president, organized a tour last spring to Bodie Island Oysters for people to learn more about oyster mariculture and how oysters benefit the environment. Rowan Jacobsen, an award-winning author who coined the term “Napa Valley of oysters,” to describe North Carolina’s potential to grow and distribute oysters, attended the tour.

A lifelong chef, Lewis draws a connection between oysters and wine, which is the other main focus of his restaurant. Both oysters and the grapes that go into wine are influenced by the geography of the environment where they’re grown. Lewis said that there are not many significant differences among genetic strains of oysters, so different tastes come from the water in which they’re grown. For that reason, Coastal Provisions places an emphasis on serving raw oysters on-the-half-shell to showcase the differences in taste.

Coastal Provisions is a casual eatery during lunch, and the lights dim in the evening for a more upscale dining experience. Some features of Lewis’ original store remain, as seafood and wine are still for sale. Diners can also see the food being prepared in the open kitchen and order food to-go.

Lewis and Foster, who previously were chefs in Washington, D.C., own two other restaurants in the Outer Banks. While Lewis stays busy at the restaurants, he continues to advocate for oysters in North Carolina.

In the fall he hosted OystoberFest for the second year in a row, an event that highlights North Carolina oysters and craft brews. He also supports development opportunities for the local oyster economy such as a North Carolina oyster trail. The oyster trail, which will be similar to ones in other states like Virginia, will highlight restaurants that serve oysters and mariculture operations, among other North Carolina based industries.

More information on Coastal Provisions is available at www.coastalprovisionsmarket.com. The restaurant is located in Southern Shores and is open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.