167 Raw, the latest addition to East Bay Street, is named for the fishmonger's original Nantucket address and the way much of its seafood is served: Customers who snag a seat near the window or at the minute kitchen bar can order up uncooked oysters or clams.
But raw also refers to anything that's not in its polished or finished form, and that's a fairly good descriptor of this highly promising fresh seafood counter.
Operated by recent College of Charleston grads Kyle Norton and Jesse Sandole, whose father 30 years ago opened the first 167 Raw at 167 Hummock Pond Rd., the bandbox shop has white-tiled walls and a spanking clean charm. The retail area isn't overcrowded with maritime oddities: Rather, the windowed cases are devoted to a tidy selection of popular seafood, including live Maine lobsters apt to wave their claws at patrons. (According to a staffer, the $14.95/pound lobsters sell so quickly that a holding tank isn't needed.) The display also houses shrimp salad and whole key lime pies.
For now, the shrimp in the case come from Asia, but 167 Raw is reportedly in the process of forging relationships with local seafood suppliers. Its owners are also headed to Columbia later this month to petition for a beer-and-wine license that a few neighbors have protested, and patio seating is in the works.
Still, even without South Carolina shrimp, a sidewalk seat and glass of rose, it's easy to enjoy 167 Raw. The menu lists carnitas tacos, fried oyster tacos, shrimp tacos and an $18 lobster roll, which has grabbed much of the shop's early press. But the standout on a recent visit was a grouper ceviche, surrounded by house-fried tortilla chips. (The tortillas themselves are outsourced.) The lime-based dressing was perhaps a touch too sweet, but the meaty fish was terrifically fresh and clean. It's an excellent start for a meal - or a neighborhood business.
Located at 289 E. Bay St., 167 Raw opens at 10 a.m. It closes at 9 p.m., Mon.-Thurs., and stays open on Fridays and Saturdays until crowds dwindle. The shop is closed on Sundays. For more information, call 579-4997.