New Yorkers (and visitors), meet Shane Covey. But not here. You’ll have to go to his restaurant, Upstate if you want to meet him, which trust us, you do.
Covey is the owner of and mastermind behind Upstate, a tiny oyster and craft beer bar in the east village. If you don’t know about this place, we almost don’t want to tell you but at the risk of even longer waits (there are no reservations and waits can be crazy at primetime), here goes.
He’s there (almost) every night, and if you go you’ll undoubtedly meet him. He’s usually working behind the bar, but we’ve had him wait on us at tables as well. He’s notoriously tight-lipped and doesn’t do any press (we couldn’t even get him to talk to us for this article), but it’s hard to stay mad at him once he’s put a plate of oysters in front of you.
The restaurant opened in 2012 without much fanfare or much of a menu. They pretty much only served beer and oysters. Now, they’ve expanded and they serve charcuterie, other cooked and raw seafood dishes, and whiskey cake if you’re lucky, but more on that later. Everything in the restaurant is incredibly fresh. You know how we know that? The restaurant is pretty small. Go look for a freezer, we dare you. You won’t find one in the whole place. Whatever they’re feeding you is fresh that day.
Here’s how to do upstate right:
1. Go for the oyster happy hour. For $12, you get half a dozen oysters and a craft beer.
2. Sit at the bar. Upstate is a good time no matter where in the restaurant you are but this makes it a much more fun and intimate experience. The staff is what makes the restaurant great, and you’ll get to spend more time with them if you sit at the bar.
3. Listen to them when they recommend a beer. And, don’t be afraid to ask for a taste. We’ve been there a few different times and each time they’ve had a different awesome selection.
4. Get a half-dozen oysters, or a dozen if you’re extra hungry. Oysters are the obvious choice here but they have other menu items that are equally good. Have them recommend a few different types of east and west coast oysters.
5. Order the uni. Seriously. Even if you don’t like uni. What will appear in front of you is a plate of uni, roe, pureed carrot, a raw egg, and toast. We would have licked the plate if it weren’t socially unacceptable.
6. Order the Fettuccine with clams. It’s some of the best we’ve ever had.
7. Leave room for the Whiskey cake. It’s Shane’s wife’s recipe, and they give it to you at the end of your meal.
8. Sit by Shane. Sit by Shane. Sit by Shane. He flies under the radar but you can tell he’s running the show. It’s easy to see his heart and soul is in this restaurant and he’s a great conversationalist. If you go back a second time, he’ll remember you.
The best part? There’s more to come from Covey. He’s planning to open a neighborhood fish place nearby with Adam Elzer of the Frank & Lil Frankie’s family. If it’s anything like Upstate, it’s going to become a favorite, fast.
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