After success serving oysters in a temporary space in Mount Vernon, Dylan Salmon began looking for a permanent location. He found just the spot for Dylan's Oyster Cellar in Hampden.

"I walked in and fell in love with it," said Salmon of the property that formerly housed a florist.


After renovations, the Baltimore native opened his namesake oyster house in December.

The cozy, open dining area, which seats around 50, has a practical simplicity with wooden tables, a few private booths and a hexagonal, black-and-white tile floor reminiscent of a Parisian bistro. An 18-stool bar area with a couple of high-top tables is tucked into the back of conjoined rooms. Front windows overlook the street.

When the sun sets, contemporary pendant and recessed lights, along with votive candles on the tables, cast an intimate glow. It would be romantic but for the noise level, which registered decibels in the high 80s. Think of the sound of a garbage disposal or blender. But the hustle-bustle fits the lively ambiance and informality of a casual seafood tavern.

In mid-March, Dylan's Oyster Cellar, a charming raw bar by Baltimorean Dylan Salmon, moved into the Hatch, and has made the most of the quaint, short-term space since.

The sparse menu, which changes often, includes about 14 items divided among categories listed as oysters, clams and fishes. Hot side dishes, like the popular bowl o' beans, and cold ones, like a crab macaroni salad, complete the menu. There are no desserts.

Oysters on the half shell are almost mandatory here. The half-dozen bivalves on our plate were succulent morsels that we quickly devoured. We feasted on Battle Creek oysters from Virginia, Hammersleys from Washington state and Picklepoints from Prince Edward Island, all recommendations from our knowledgeable server.

We chose a fruity Fossil Point Chardonnay to pair with our seafood. Besides wine, diners will find beer in cans, in bottles and on draft, along with cocktails like a gin dandy and a vodka Collins.

During our meal, we shared a bowl of juicy steamed clams served with drawn butter and lemon. The midsize cherrystone clams were fat and delicious.

When we ordered our food, our waitress asked if we wanted the dishes delivered as they were prepared. We said yes since our choices didn't necessarily fit into appetizer or entree designations.

In the course of the evening, we ended up with dishes like a crab imperial arriving before our salad. The portions aren't large, so the setup worked well.

The imperial was the size of a petite woman's fist, and while it was a good representation of the classic Maryland dish, it wouldn't be enough food for dinner.

The green salad featured a mound of mixed baby lettuces dressed with a tangy Banyuls (fortified wine) vinaigrette and sprinkled with shavings of piquant sheep's milk cheese. It was an inspired composition that complemented our other dishes.

The potato skins with a "sauce Greenberg" were disappointing. The hollowed-out potato halves were too crisp and lacked the necessary thin layer of fluffiness. The sauce was plain sour cream with a sprinkle of chives.

If the Greenberg name sounds familiar, it's because the potato skins have been served at The Prime Rib for decades. Their version includes a horseradish cream sauce, which adds a kick to the spuds.

Seven months after his stint in Mount Vernon ended, Dylan's Oyster Cellar has a new home. Owner Dylan Salmon has signed a lease to open an expanded version of Dylan¿s Oyster Cellar in a Hampden commercial property.

Our meal perked up with the delivery of a coddie — a potato cake flavored with salt cod — accompanied by saltine crackers and mustard. This once-popular Baltimore dish (about the size of a crab cake) is hard to find these days, but we're glad Dylan's has resurrected it.


We also enjoyed an oyster pan roast — a delectable mixture of chunky oysters, cream, chili sauce and Worcestershire sauce. It came with toast points, which served as a platform for the sensuous concoction.

Unfortunately, less than a week after our visit, it was bumped from the menu to make room for an oyster stew. I hope the kitchen brings it back at some point.

The place was packed when we were there on a midweek evening. I like Salmon's approach in providing a concise menu of seafood favorites. It's striking a chord with diners.

When I talked to Salmon by phone, he told me how he had worked his way up through the restaurant ranks, starting as a dishwasher and busboy.

He studied to become an architect but, after working in the field, found he didn't like it and headed back to the kitchen. He ended up at Ryleigh's Oyster in Federal Hill as a shucker.

After 12-hour shifts of shucking oysters, "I fell in love with them," he said.

His passion shows at the Oyster Cellar.