Being landlocked on the Central Coast isn’t stopping one Nipomo restaurant from shucking and serving oysters.
Mother Shuckers, the rustic seafood spot on North Thompson Avenue, draws attention to itself, least of all for its bright blue exterior and the shiny black sign out front bearing a mermaid holding a pearl-filled oyster. It’s all about the briny cornucopia of mollusks available to enjoy at an affordable price.
“Nipomo is so small, but we’re really limited when it comes to restaurants,” Mother Shuckers social media manager Kisa Maxwell said. “There’s no other specialty seafood place here to my knowledge.”
Open since December 2021 under the ownership of Nipomo residents Butch and Barbara Powers, the restaurant receives its oyster supply from Morro Bay’s Grassy Bar Oyster Company. The North Coast to South County connection comes from the Powers’ familiarity with the local market that came with running their other business: Olde Port Fish and Seafood Company in Grover Beach.
The Powers originally envisioned Mother Shuckers to be an oyster and beer bar. When Maxwell joined them, she recommended adding local wines to the menu. Patrons and community members gave friendly recommendations, too, especially ones who were familiar with Olde Port Fish and Seafood. That advice resulted in other additions to the seafood family—beer-battered fish and chips, pink bay shrimp cocktails, ahi tuna, and panko-crusted clam and squid strips. Now, Mother Shuckers also serves 15 beers on tap, wines by the glass and bottle, and wine-based cocktails like the Nipomo Sunset.
But it’s the oyster that sings brightest at Mother Shuckers, and the restaurant goes through 30 dozen in a given week.
At its simplest, the shucked oysters are sweet, meaty, and possess a clean taste of the ocean. Served with plenty of lemon wedges and packets of Tapatio hot sauce, the oysters are cracked open efficiently enough for them to smoothly glide off the shell and into your gullet. It’s as graceful as could be. Get half a dozen for $16 or a dozen for $30.
Mother Shuckers also gets creative with the oysters, putting the shucked shells under the broiler flame. It doesn’t stop there. Those broiled oysters can be crowned with six toppings of your choice, including lemon and garlic butter-soaked panko breadcrumbs, poke sauce and seaweed salad, or a Cajun blend with Tapatio and parmesan cheese.
“For people who like oysters, it’s not just raw,” Maxwell said. “We don’t do a mignonette sauce. We do have horseradish and cocktail upon request for people. That’s why we like to offer the broiled options for a little bit of variety.”
A bright shrimp ceviche topping also exists for those who want to ramp up the regular raw oysters at Mother Shuckers. It’s tomato-forward and flecked with chopped jalapeño, cucumber, red onions, and cilantro. Maxwell told the Sun it’s a cohesive way to unite two preexisting menu items.
“I came up with the ceviche and that’s been on the menu for a year,” she said. “Then, a customer was like, ‘At home, I put my ceviche on top of fresh oysters.’ We tried it and it was great.”
Maxwell calls herself the “Jill of all trades” having worked every job at Mother Shuckers. Well, almost. She’s hasn’t shucked an oyster yet and leaves that to the kitchen staff. But the Tapatio aficionado has recommendations on how to eat them.
“I personally think you have to add things to it, but everyone has their own way of liking it,” she said. “Personally, I like hot sauce, horseradish, and the broiled options.”
Maxwell added that Mother Shuckers is going to roll out an updated menu this month. New features will include salmon tacos along with the usual shrimp and rock cod varieties that can be enjoyed on “Taco Thursdays” with a dollar knocked off, and a ticketed crab boil event in December.
With the help of Maxwell, bartender and Powers’ daughter Katie Quine, and a team of four staff members, Mother Shuckers is steadily becoming a Nipomo hot spot. Headed by DJ Darren, karaoke nights on Saturday from 8 to 11 p.m. bring out a crowd that packs the restaurant to capacity. Regular live music events on the outdoor patio on Sundays rival the karaoke nights in terms of popularity.
“The response for that has been great, especially because there are a lot of local bands around here who have a very big following,” Maxwell said. “It opens up people coming here who are following the band.”
According to Maxwell, the weekend gatherings are good ways to introduce the local community to their take on oysters while Mother Shuckers also becomes a welcoming hangout spot.
“Overall, the vibe is still a sea shanty. You’re not obviously coming in to do a fine dining experience, but then again you don’t have to pay for the fine dining experience either,” she said. “We still try to keep the presentation looking clean and nice, and it’s consistent. I really think the kitchen has it down.”
New Times Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal, from the Sun’s sister paper, is ready to slurp her weight in raw oysters. Send hot sauce to [email protected].