Public Fish & Oyster
513 W. Main Street . Charlottesville, VA . (434) 995-5542
Maybe it’s our New England roots or the oysters in our blood, but The Charlottesville 29 would not be complete without an oyster house. Fortunately, Charlottesville has a darned good one. With its pleasantly cramped space, airy atmosphere, and displays of oyster cans, Public Fish & Oyster would feel like a classic coastal oyster house if not for its landlocked location on West Main. “Rustic, but modern. Beautiful, yet relaxed,” First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe once described it.
The dazzling array of fresh oysters and clams changes daily, with roughly a dozen varieties from Virginia, the Northeast, and the Pacific coast. A chalkboard describes them all, from mildest to briniest. Don’t want them raw? How about fried, stewed, or broiled? But, there’s more than just oysters. There’s serious cooking, too. Plus, owner Daniel Kaufman spent years as a sommelier, so the wines, cocktails, and beers are worthy, and he’s usually around to suggest a pairing, including the classic raw oyster wine, Muscadet.
What to Order
Regulars know that the happy hour menu (4-6:30 pm daily) offers a few treats not on the regular menu, like lobster rolls. (We like to ask for ours in warm butter instead of mayo.) Besides happy hour, the menu ranges from elaborate entrees to classics like Oysters Rockefeller and four different kinds of Moules Frites, such as Mariniere, Dijonaisse, or Thai, each served with Belgian fries and aioli. Below is a list of our suggestions, chef Gregg Dionne’s own favorites, and appearances in Five Finds on Friday, where a local chef or personality has named a Public dish as one of the best in town.
- Raw Bar
- Cornmeal Crusted Fried Oysters
- Fried Oyster Lyonnaise
- Fried Brussels Sprouts
- Warm Cauliflower Salad
- Lobster Roll (Happy Hour only; ask for warm butter instead of mayonnaise)
- PFO Pan Roast
- Angels on Horseback
- Crab Crusted Icelandic Haddock
- Bacon Infused Old Fashioned
Five Finds on Friday Picks
- Oysters, French Fries and a Glass of Chablis — Jason Becton (MarieBette)
- A Dozen Oysters and a Glass of Chablis — Derek Mansfield (Tilman’s)
- Fresh Oysters and Frites with Garlic Aioli — Trish Clinton (formerly, BBQ Exchange)
- Happy Hour Oysters — Laura Galgano (Blue Moon Diner)
- Lobster Roll — Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)
- Thai Mussels — Jeanette Peabody (The Oakhurst Inn); Emily Pelton (Veritas Vineyards and Winery)
- The Importance of Being Earnest — Matt Wolf (formerly, Banyan Day Provisions)