Photo by Emma Patti

“We’re sailors. We love the Eastern Shore. Seafood is what we eat and what we love,” says Valerie Dugan, who with her husband Rick, is opening The Grilled Oyster Company tomorrow, September 5, in the Cabin John Shopping Mall in Potomac.

The Chesapeake-style seafood restaurant, which features raw and grilled oysters as well as fried Ipswitch clams, crab dip, crab cakes, mussels, cioppino and plenty more, is located in the former Pomegranate Bistro, which closed in April.

When it comes to restaurants, the Dugans are certainly no fish out of water.

Rick Dugan, who grew up in Silver Spring and went to St. John’s College High School, was most recently the general manager of the BRIO Tuscan Grille in North Bethesda Market, and helped open four other restaurants in the chain. He also worked at the O’Donnell’s Sea Grill in Gaithersburg as well as the old location in Bethesda, and helped open the Clyde’s in Chevy Chase. Valerie Dugan, who grew up in Bethesda and graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, also worked at both O’Donnell’s restaurants. The two live in the Kentlands in Gaithersburg.

Valerie Dugan says the couple had been looking to open their own place “pretty much for a very long time,” and the old Pomegranate Bistro space was a good size (130 seats) and location (busy shopping center).

When it came to renovation, the two didn’t have to do much—other than repainting, replacing  the lighting, lifting the drop ceiling and adding boating prints of Willard Bond’s, the recently deceased marine artist. They also hung up a fabulous giant metal crab sculpture done by Cambridge, Md. artist Paul Lockhart. It’s a light and comfortable-looking space.


The menu, executed by Chef Chris Morris, who the couple worked with at O’Donnell’s, offers small plates, salads, sandwiches and entrees. Vegetarians and non-seafood eaters will have options too. There’s also an appealing wine list, with 15 wines by the glass.

Depending on what you order, the tab could go anywhere from $15 to $50 a person—with the average check being about $20 to $30 a head, according to Valerie Dugan.

The name of the restaurant, which is carried out with three grilled oyster starters, came about because the couple personally likes to grill oysters at home. It also gets across the idea of small plates and sharing. In addition, “someone who might be afraid of raw oysters” will have a cooked alternative, Valerie said.


Kids will also have alternatives. The Dugans, who have a 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son, added a kid’s menu with fresh grilled salmon, a mini crab cake slider, fried calamari, sautéed mussels, herb grilled chicken skewers (as well as the more traditional macaroni and cheese and buttered noodles).

Desserts so far include cupcakes, crème brulee, key lime tart and vanilla gelato with Grand Marnier-marinated raspberries.

The Grilled Oyster Company will start serving dinner tomorrow, Wednesday, September 5 at 4 p.m. and will be open for lunch beginning Tuesday, September 11.


7943 Tuckerman Lane, Cabin John Shopping Center, Potomac, 301-299-9888,