It takes some convincing to stop short of Santa Barbara when driving along Highway 101 north of L.A. County, and a viable argument came from LA Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila, who alerted readers to the existence of The Jolly Oyster. We eventually visited the blue trailer at Ventura’s San Buenaventura Beach and enjoyed our DIY taste of Baja.
Two Marks own the company, Ventura-based Mark Reynolds and Baja-based Mark Venus. This isn’t your typical beach food in Southern California, so they set up a series of informational boards around the picnic area, in both English and Spanish. One sign touted the health benefits of oysters, including Vitamin B12, Omega-3s and cholesterol levels lower than chicken. Another board discusses oyster “childhood,” from hatchery, a three-week window to swim and explore, feasting on algae to gain proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins, until they’re large enough to go to farm. Baja California’s Pacific Coast, and the Marks’ farm south of Ensenada in San Quintin Bay, suit oysters well because of the cool current from Alaska, and because of a clean environment.
We ordered 6 smaller Kumamotos and 6 larger Pacific oysters, both fairly salty and both $1 apiece. Bring an oyster-shucking knife, or buy one from the trailer for $5. A dozen oysters, even with the tool surcharge, was still a bargain. BYOK, even better. Especially with the smaller oysters, it can be a challenge to jimmy the shells free, but it’s worth the effort.
To really step your game up, San Buenaventura Beach also has grills near where The Jolly Oyster parks, so instead of shucking, if you have the time, stage a relaxing oyster roast. Either way, there’s now one more good reason to linger in the 805.