Good Eats – Elm Square Oyster Co.

If there is an absolute truth about downtown Andover restaurants, it’s this: You better do it right, or you don’t have a chance. There are just too many other good dining options. Elm Square Oyster Co. does it right. 

The three-room eatery occupies the space that once housed Bin 28, later called Brasserie 28. The same ownership has been involved in all three restaurants.

Bin 28 got a thumbs-up from another reviewer in this magazine in late 2010. I also enjoyed the food there, and found the dark and intimate space inviting … at first. But “dark and inviting” can become “dismal” over time, and it ultimately struck me as a place to go hide, not always an endearing trait for a restaurant.

That’s not a problem for the Elm Street Oyster Co. Though the basic layout remains the same — with a smart bar immediately on the left as you enter — the space is brighter and cheerier, with a nautical decor and soft colors. Three small dining rooms lead to the raw bar and open kitchen in the back of the restaurant.

Elm Square Oyster Co. calls itself a “modern New England eatery,” and the menu backs up that claim. There is plenty of seafood, of course, including shellfish. A lengthy “charcuterie & snacks” list runs the gamut from salty nuts ($7) and daily cured meats ($8) to local cheese ($6) and chicken liver mousse ($7).


Nearly a dozen entrees and appetizers also offer a good variety of options for most palates. Obviously, the idea is to make the restaurant a favorite haunt for folks, including families. I never quite got that vibe from Bin 28/Brasserie 28.

It’s no surprise that the selection of raw oysters is one of the menu’s centerpieces. Each day, a half dozen or more varieties are featured, along with descriptions such as “buttery finish,” “pristine,” and “silky” — as if you’re sampling Napa whites.

Most of Elm Square’s oysters are from Cape Cod, Maine and Canada. We mixed and matched — some briny, some plump, some very clean. We loved ’em all. And don’t be afraid to ask for a little Tabasco for added thump.

A trio of deviled egg halves ($6) was a fun starter. Oh, they won’t be as good as your mother’s, but close enough. The beef tartare ($14) included smoked onion and mustard seed, hardly traditional. But it was a terrific appetizer and packed with flavor.

The crabcakes ($11) weren’t such a hit. The five small cakes, though laced with tarragon and fennel, were surprisingly bland; a dab of remoulade would have helped.

The local cod with black kale and maitake mushroom ($28) is a prime example of what the place does well. The fish was so fresh I worried it might jump off the plate and slap me in the face. It had a light texture and a mild, clean taste. Flavors melded well, and the result was a dish that clicked at every level.

Though the heritage chicken ballotine ($26) wasn’t on par with the cod, it was a satisfying entree, served with lentils, onions and Brussels sprouts.

A tasty affogato ($11) – chocolate cake and ice cream escorted by a shot of espresso poured into the dish as it is served – is among the five dessert selections.

The service was spot-on, but with one small gripe: no salt or pepper on the tables. The restaurant also features an extensive wine/spirits/beer menu – I’ll be going back with friends.

Elm Square Oyster Co. is a welcome addition to downtown Andover and a worthy successor to Bin 28 and Brasserie 28.


Elm Square Oyster Co.
Andover, Mass.
(978) 470-2228
Dining hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.;
drinks served until midnight
Reservations accepted


BEFORE POSTING: Please be respectful online as you contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to remove impersonators, advertisements, personal attacks, threats, profanity, inappropriate or offensive comments. By posting here, you are permitting 512 Media Inc., to edit and republish your comment in all media.

Leave a Reply