Photos: author

Sustainable Seafood at the Jolly Oyster, Ventura, CA

Restaurants + Bars Insider Guides
by Allison Wottawa Jul 17, 2013

THE JOLLY OYSTER is a permanent food truck set on San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura, California, a central coast beachtown known for environmentally conscious, sustainable seafood.

The shellfish

The food truck serves fresh shellfish directly from their farm in Baja and specializes in Kumamoto and Pacific oysters, as well as Manila clams. All mollusks are ready for raw consumption, or customers can grill their lunch right on the beach.

Aquaculture expert, Mark Reynolds

“Everything works better if you eat locally,” proclaims Mark Reynolds, owner of the Jolly Oyster. Mark left the world of international banking when he noticed a business opportunity in sustainable seafood and the chance to “do something that has relevance.”


Mark chose Ventura as his location, as it’s within the 400-mile driving distance from his farm in Baja, and therefore his products are considered locally or regionally produced in the United States. He also found that San Buenaventura Beach was the best place to “bring the essence of the farm to public.”

In this effort, Mark seems to have succeeded. Groups of Ventura locals regularly gather around picnic tables with clear plastic cups filled with wine. It’s BYOB here in the state park.

Mark’s advice for eating oysters

“You have to chew the oyster, that’s how you taste the flavors,” he explains.

When chewed, the Kumamotos produce a succession of flavors in your mouth: salty, sweet, honeydew melon, and finally a mouthwatering savory sensation that confuses the senses. The Pacific oyster has a stronger ocean flavor, but if you continue to chew, you’ll eventually taste cucumber.

Jolly Oyster expansion

Mark recently commissioned a secondary food truck that’s run by Adrien Nieto, a young, talented chef with a strong Latin influence, famed for his appearances on Masterchef. The Jolly Oyster Kitchen is equipped to specially prepare Mark’s oysters for visitors. Although remaining true to Mark’s dedication to sustainable and untainted seafood, this partnership has dramatically expanded the Jolly Oyster’s menu options.

Mark explains that this branching out aims to “maintain the integrity of the oyster without being too clever.” Just clever enough.


From the farm

  • Pacific oysters in the half shell and choice of sauce
  • Kumamoto Reserve oysters in the half shell and choice of sauce
  • Oyster taco: Three fried oysters with arugula, pickled red cabbage, and saffron aioli
  • Manila clam steamers: 20 Manila clams prepared with shallots, garlic, herbs, cava, and Ventura Limoncello.

Other options include

  • Stone crab meat tostada: Served with avocado puree, arugula, dressed with fennel and saffron aioli
  • Baja bay scallop: Ceviche style, served with coconut corn puree, red onion, and lime juice

Jolly Oyster is located at 911 San Pedro St., Ventura, CA 93001. Open Wednesday to Monday. Kitchen serves Thursday to Sunday.

* Allison was a guest of the Ventura Visitors & Convention Bureau.

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