A beloved Coupeville restaurant is reopening under new ownership.
California transplants Sophia Kitay and Ben Jones are the new owners and operators of the Oystercatcher in Coupeville, and the couple said taking over the Central Whidbey locale has been nothing short of a dream come true.
The Oystercatcher first opened in Coupeville 25 years ago and has had three previous owners. The restaurant closed in October when its most recent owners, Sara and Tyler Hansen, decided to focus solely on their other business, the Little Red Hen Bakery.
Enter Jones and Kitay. After years in the food service industry, the couple was dreaming of owning their own business. Though they had always talked about how they would operate their own future restaurant, Kitay said, it had always felt like a mere pipe dream until one day, while on a hike, they decided to get serious about their plan.
Kitay started researching what it would take to bring their goal to fruition, and in the research process, came across the Oystercatcher.
“I just kept thinking, ‘Wow, this is exactly what we’ve been talking about,’” she said. “This is literally the restaurant we’ve always talked about opening.”
The Oystercatcher encapsulated everything Jones and Kitay wanted in their space — it was elegant without being pretentious, it was well-established with a dedicated following and it was located on beautiful Whidbey Island, away from the city, which the couple was anxious to leave behind.
When they met the Hansens, Kitay said, everything fell into place.
“I think we all kind of knew it was going to happen,” she said.
It was pure serendipity. The couple moved to Whidbey Island and got started on the restaurant right away.
“It aligned so fast,” Jones said.
He added that he and Kitay maintain a partnership with the Hansens, who have been their mentors. The business owners share equipment and materials, and Oystercatcher will serve Little Red Hen bread.
Jones will even team up with Tyler Hansen as the guest chefs for Outstanding in the Field, a roving restaurant that hosts large dinners in farms all over the world. Jones and Hansen will partner for an Outstanding in the Field event at Scenic Isle Farm July 6 in Ebey’s Reserve.
Kitay and Jones each come to the job with plentiful experience in the restaurant industry. The couple met one another while they were both working at Local 360, a former Seattle restaurant.
Kitay worked at the Lighthouse Bar and Grill at the Hotel Bellwether while studying in Bellingham and Vendemmia in Seattle, among other restaurants. Jones has also been a chef in a number of places, including an eco-resort in Panama and a Michelin Star restaurant in Beverly Hills.
Jones said the menu at Oystercatcher will continue to reflect the local flavors that have made it so popular among Coupeville residents for the past 25 years.
“We’ll be using a lot of the same ingredients, it’ll just be my style,” he said.
He will also offer a chef’s tasting menu each night on the dinner menu. The chef’s tasting menu won’t be announced; patrons who opt for this experience will put themselves in the hands of the kitchen team, who will prepare a five course meal for them off the printed menu. Kitay said this will give Jones and the kitchen staff a chance to flex their creative muscles and incorporate more ingredients than they might otherwise be able to.
The Oystercatcher had its soft launch this past week, with its grand opening taking place Saturday, June 10. Its hours will be 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Monday. The restaurant is located at 901 Grace Street Northwest.