Max’s Oyster Bar’s Phenomenal Crab Melt Sandwich

While visiting a college friend in Connecticut, I had the chance to eat lunch there. Now, I have dined in Connecticut before, and I have eaten well! But that was during the summer. Not a whole lot of places to eat outside with a lobster roll in hand when it’s sub 30 F, you know?
That is why we chose to dine at Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford.

The interior is upscale but not intimidating – the sort of place you would expect to find well clad suburban moms and young business executives doing a quick lunch.

Baked Oysters with Caramelized Onions, Brioche, Tasso Ham, and Gruyere Cheese

These are oysters Rockefeller for people who think they don’t like oysters. Lightly grilled, which brought out the smoky flavors that complimented the peppery tasso ham. The Gruyere was applied with a heavy hand, its nutty richness soaking up the fresh, salty juices of the oysters. Soft, thick breadcrumbs completed the  dish. This was a hell of a starter. It was rich, but not at all heavy. The oysters worked so well because they weren’t overtly oceanic – just a bright, briny note in the background. Usually I like the oysters to take center stage, but here they sang clearly in the chorus.

Clam Chowder

Traditional in the best sense of the word. Great New England clam chowder needs no improvements, no accompaniments to jazz it up or reinvent it. It needs a buttery base, a creamy mouthfeel, tender potatoes, pleasantly chewy clams, and smoky bacon. Don’t give me any red bell peppers or mango coulis. Gimme a soup so think you could stand a spoon up in it, and that’s my man. This soup wasn’t QUITE thick enough, but the clean clam flavor and perfect seasoning won me over. This is highly recommended.

San Francisco Style Crab Melt with Blue Crab, Dill Aioli, Jack Cheese, and Sourdough Bread
If this sandwich doesn’t scream “hedonism,” then I don’t know what does. Sweet, juicy crab blended with creamy mayonnaise and fresh dill. It was blanketed in a melty, tangy layer of jack cheese that stretched when I pulled the toasty, buttery halves of the sandwich apart. The crab was warmed through just slightly, so it retained the mild taste of cold crab but absorbed some of the bread’s butter and became aromatic and sweet. Though I don’t tend to love crab and cheese, this achieved the impossible – it highlighted the flavor of the crab and the texture of the cheese so each complimented the other without any competition.

Max Oyster Bar is a great place to grab a Connecticut lunch, and by that I mean fresh, seafood oriented, and reasonably priced. By NYC standards, it was practically cheap. The service was great, the portions were huge, and they really have a way with fish and cheese. This restaurant single handedly convinced me that Connecticut isn’t just a summer destination.


  1. The fried clam roll looks great, but I think I would have gone with the lobster roll.

    PS it was 85 in South Pasadena today. I had to take off my sportcoat by 11 AM.

  2. I need those oysters!

  3. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Justin-BEYOND jealous of the weather! And it was a tough call between the oyster and lobster rolls.
    @Sarah-you sooo do!