Food & Drink

Olympic Hopeful


For champion bivalves, seek out Washington’s Hama Hama, the oyster saloon so nice...

WORDS BY ROWAN JACOBSEN

Wildsam

Jackie Dodd Mallory

Updated

16 Feb 2024

Reading Time

4 Minutes

U.S. 101 LOOPS the Olympic Peninsula like a lariat, the whitecapped teeth of Hood Canal at every turn. Jagged peaks emerge from the clouds. Glacial creeks pour meltwater into the canal. It’s like you’ve slipped through time into some primordial landscape. And all you were looking for was a plate of oysters and a beer.

Hood Canal is one of the planet’s great places to harvest wild oysters. Your destination, the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon, is an outdoor affair: a few dozen picnic tables set up between shell piles and the water. And you have done your homework. You know that in high summer, oysters are skinny, having exhausted themselves to reproduce. In winter, though, they are plump and sweet, with energy stored to get them through the dark days with little algae to eat. You are here to taste perfection.

Wildsam
Jackie Dodd Mallory
Wildsam
Jackie Dodd Mallory

If it’s high tide, Adam James will be out in the barge, lifting totes onto the deck. With his exuberant mustache and gunslinger vibe, he could step seamlessly into any of the family photos that line the shucking house walls— five generations worth, dating to the 1890s, when his family bought this land. Back then, they worked the timber that fills the Hamma Hamma River Valley. Only in the 1950s did they turn their attention to shellfish.

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You step up to order raw Hamas on the halfshell, grilled Hamas with chipotle bourbon sauce and a smoked oyster salad. You tack on a bowl of chowder, some purple clams in curry broth. You grab your can of Oyster Bro Pilsner. The mustachioed mountain man on the can, you notice, is Adam James—an homage from Shelton, WA’s High Steel Brewing Company. Your raw oysters show up. You drizzle on Douglas-fir mignonette and slurp one down, keeping an eye out for orcas in the canal.

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