Even though we are pretty much smack dab in the middle of the country, Memphians love their seafood. And luckily for us, one of our local chefs has a love affair with oysters.

“I have always loved oysters, and I have always had a love for the concept of the oyster bar. Whether I’m in New Orleans, the coast of Carolina, Chesapeake Bay or Boston, it is my favorite place to post up at a restaurant,” says Sweet Grass chef and owner Ryan Trimm. “There is nothing like enjoying some incredible oysters, cold beers and cocktails.”

Thanks to Ryan’s passion for bivalves, local oyster fans can rejoice — there is a new oyster bar in town! To make room for the oysters, Ryan extended Sweet Grass’ existing bar to cover the entire north wall of the dining room. Doubling its size, the bar now seats 20 guests.

Sweet Grass is located in the heart of the Cooper-Young neighborhood.

Peering into the  window at Sweet Grass. It’s located in the heart of the Cooper-Young neighborhood.

Chef and owner Ryan Trimm designed his dining room to have the feel of a neighborhood bistro – “It is important that our guests feel at home in our dining room,” he says. “We hope they feel they can stop by for a cocktail or snack, and also feel like they can celebrate important memories with us.”

Chef and owner Ryan Trimm designed his dining room to have the feel of a neighborhood bistro. “It is important that our guests feel at home in our dining room,” he says. “We hope they feel they can stop by for a cocktail or snack, and also feel like they can celebrate important memories with us.”

Sweet Grass just doubled it’s bar area to include an oyster bar.

Sweet Grass just doubled its bar area to include an oyster bar.

Raw oysters are kept chilled on ice until ready to serve.

Raw oysters are kept chilled on ice until ready to serve.

“I always wanted a neighborhood bistro and local watering hole. The oyster bar is a great way to add more of that element,” says Ryan. “It also gave us a chance to share something that I am so passionate about. I always want to give our guests what they want — it is a customer service business after all — but I think it is important to do that in a way that showcases our own interests in the kitchen.”

So what can you find on the new oyster bar menu? Raw oysters on the half-shell, of course, available by the half-dozen or dozen. “We get our oysters from all over the country, from Boston to Virginia to North Carolina to Florida to the Gulf and even the Northwest Coast. Most of our oysters are shipped overnight directly from the oyster farm due to our landlocked location, but some of our fishmongers bring them in as well,” says Ryan. “The most important thing is the freshness of our oysters, so more often we buy in smaller amounts.”

To ensure that the oysters are as fresh as can be, chef Ryan Trimm has small batches flown in three times a week.

To ensure that the oysters are as fresh as can be, chef Ryan Trimm has small batches flown in three times a week.

Justin Brooks shucks oysters to order.

Justin Brooks shucks oysters to order.

Grown off the coast of Chincoteague Island in Virginia, Olde Salt oysters have a bold sea-side brininess with a smooth, clean follow-through.

Grown off the coast of Chincoteague Island in Virginia, Olde Salt oysters have a bold seaside brininess with a smooth, clean follow-through.

Cocktail sauce is not the only garnish available at Sweet Grass’ raw bar.

Cocktail sauce is not the only garnish available at Sweet Grass’ raw bar.

Oysters on the half shell are available by the half dozen or dozen.

Oysters on the half shell are available by the half-dozen or dozen.

The raw bar also serves up two hot oyster options: A riff on a New Orleans favorite, Ryan’s chargrilled oysters are smothered in butter, garlic and grated Parmesan cheese. “Chargrilled oysters are always some of my favorite when I’m in New Orleans,” adds Ryan of the dish he expects to be the favorite on the oyster bar menu. The signature Sweet Grass baked oysters are not to be overlooked. With leek, cream, bacon and potato in the mix, the hot oysters are reminiscent of a Boston clam chowder. “A couple of years back, we started reducing our oyster stew recipe and pouring it onto half shell oysters,” says Ryan. “It’s another level of good. Smokey with cream and leeks and a hint of salt, it really makes a pretty good bite.”

RELATED: Memphis Foodies Share Their Favorite Cheap Eats

After enjoying your oysters, stay for dinner. Sweet Grass has been a fixture in the Midtown dining scene since 2010. After a few years of culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Charleston, Ryan decided to marry his high school sweetheart and move back to Memphis. A few short years later, the opportunity to open a spot in Cooper-Young came calling. “With my experience working in Charleston and my love for classic Southern food, we decided to open a neighborhood bistro where you could frequent often for some good grub or a glass of wine,” says Ryan.

The chef’s love for the Eastern seaboard and its coastal fare made its way onto the menu at his first venture into the Memphis restaurant scene. Sweet Grass is known for its classic yet inventive lowcountry dishes. Crab deviled eggs, oyster stew, roasted redfish and Hoppin’ Johns are a few of the South Carolina-inspired plates you can find on the menu. Ryan’s shrimp and grits rival any you will find at Charleston’s most popular spots: perfectly sautéed shrimp in a sauce with smoky sausage, country ham and tomatoes, served over a bed of creamy grits from the local Hanna Farm.

A glass of rosé is the perfect pairing for Sweet Grass’ signature baked oysters.

A glass of rosé is the perfect pairing for Sweet Grass’ signature baked oysters.

When you belly up to the bar for your oysters and small plates, don’t be shy. Ryan offers a pearl of wisdom on his raw bar menu: “The first man gets the oyster, the second man gets the shell!”

Ryan offers a pearl of wisdom on his raw bar menu: “The first man gets the oyster, the second man gets the shell!”

Chargrilled oysters are one of Ryan’s favorite New Orleans dishes, so they naturally made it onto the oyster bar menu.

Chargrilled oysters are one of Ryan’s favorite New Orleans dishes, so they naturally made it onto the oyster bar menu.

“In the past couple of years, I have noticed a trend towards our guests wanting to order a lot of appetizers and shared plates for the whole table to share. We want to embrace this trend by evolving our menu to accommodate for more and more shared plates, and the oyster bar is just another example of that,” says Ryan.

Oysters, baked or raw, are perfect for sharing. So are most of the small plates that Ryan has on his menu — aptly renamed from “appetizers” to “snacks.” Southern cheese straws, crawfish and boudin fritters served with comeback sauce, and steamed mussels with chorizo are ideal to split. With a bite for every Southern palate, the picnic platter includes an assortment of treats perfect for a large group: freshly grilled bread and chips to pair with crab salad, green chili Andouille dip, ham salad and egg salad.

Turning the bar into an authentic oyster bar has helped make Ryan’s initial dream for his neighborhood bistro more of a reality. “We hope our customers feel like they can celebrate important memories with us, and also feel they can stop by for a cocktail or snack,” says Ryan.

Sweet Grass bartender Harold Cook whips up some of the best craft cocktails in town.

Sweet Grass bartender Harold Cook whips up some of the best craft cocktails in town.

RELATED: 6 Must-Visit Dive Bars in Memphis

Thanks to the extension of the bar, Sweet Grass now has the space to offer over 100 whiskeys. Image: Justin Fox Burks

Thanks to the extension of the bar, Sweet Grass now has the space to offer over 100 whiskeys. Image: Justin Fox Burks

Sweet Grass serves some of its most popular wines on tap!

Sweet Grass serves some of its most popular wines on tap!

Ryan’s passion for oysters and coastal cooking combined with his passion for providing locals with a comfy watering hole have helped Sweet Grass evolve into the popular spot it is today — a place where great food and camaraderie mingle … now with succulent briny bivalves added to the mix!

Sweet Grass is located at 937 South Cooper St., Memphis, TN 38104. Dinner is served Tuesday through Sunday, starting at 5 p.m. Happy Hour at the bar is Tuesday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., during which time Gulf oysters are just 50 cents each. Sunday brunch is served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the restaurant is closed on Mondays. To make a reservation, call (901) 278-0278 or visit sweetgrassmemphis.com.

**********

Subscribe to StyleBlueprint, and stay connected to the best of Memphis and the South!