Just in time for the summer season, multi-BONS-winning oyster and chop house Brine reopens on Saturday, May 15, at 4 p.m., steps from its previous Newburyport location. The new space—literally next door to the old location—is nearly three times the size, bringing customers more of everything they want, wrapped in a sleek, comfortable vibe. Done in subtle shades of gray, blue and white, with a mix of high tops and stylish rattan seating, it evokes ocean without being kitchy. The focal point, as with the original location, is a long bar, done in Carrera marble, putting oyster shucking and mingling front-and-center.
“The bar is the real game-changer here,” Nancy Batista-Caswell, proprietor of Brine, says of the space, formerly Fowles Newsstand. “That’s the one thing people would complain about [before] was access to the bar, the comfort of the bar, and ‘How do I get a seat there?’”
The new bar’s 18 seats, with Carrera high-tops alongside offering another 16, will of course adhere to all pandemic-related safety regulations. Meaning no standing room for now.
While the space is new, regulars will be happy to know the menu is much the same, with a seasonal selection of crudo, rotating array of raw oysters, and entrees from the land and sea.
While beloved starters like the Clam + Pork Chowder—a deconstructed clam chowder—and the fried oyster dish Bacon + Egg remain on the list, Batista-Caswell has taken the opportunity to add a few new dishes that were tested out at sister restaurant Oak + Rowan in Boston. Among the new introductions is the can’t-miss Biscuits + Caviar: two buttermilk biscuits served with six grams of Hackleback caviar and a quenelle of onion dip. It’s the kind of high-low playful approach the restaurateur has become known for—placing something people are less familiar with next to an enticing beloved favorite.
Alongside pandemic demands for a flexible business model, Batista-Caswell is making the menu a bit more adaptable. The chops, previously offered as a composed plate complete with sides, will now be offered a la carte, with four different cuts of meat, starting at $34 for a prime skirt steak, and mix-and-match sides available to add on. The change makes way for a host of creative sides, like salt and vinegar fries, cauliflower + truffle, and smoked gouda grits. Batista-Caswell says they also offer more opportunities for diners who would prefer to graze and share.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who are just looking to socialize, without the financial commitment of a big tab,” Batista-Caswell says. “The sides can be a nice option for people to snack, along with oysters, outside al fresco or inside or at the bar.”
The care and attention to detail that is present in each of Batista-Caswell’s projects is certainly on display here, with guest and staff safety enhanced by three state-of-the-art Halo air purification systems. Outdoor seating along State Street is more inviting as well, thanks to the city’s investment in wood decking—and Batista-Caswell plans to celebrate patio season with a new scratch-made citrusy frozen cocktail.
The whole idea is to welcome customers back after a long, difficult winter. “The intention is to bring joy back into dining,” Batista-Caswell says, with a patio of people sitting outside and eating oysters, snacks, and a frozen cocktail. Or tucking into prime rib eye and caviar—whatever your pleasure. Sign us up!
17 State St., Newburyport, 978.358.8479, brineoyster.com