For seafood lovers, life can be hard. Finding fresh seafood anywhere but directly by the sea is no easy feat, so discovering it in the hot, dry reaches of eastern California feels like the stuff of fantasy. Yet thanks to Broad Street Oyster Co. and Coachella Valley Art and Music Festival teaming up this year, it’s become a reality for a lucky few.
The full five-course seafood spread will set you back a few hundred bucks, but last weekend I was able to investigate — to see whether the pop-up would be the miracle it promised or an affront to God. After all, no one really thinks “oysters” and “desert” together.
After checking in with my hosts, I walked through a gazebo draped with pastel blues and orange cloth, to a cozy corner picnic-style table. There, I was surrounded by seafood lovers already humming with anticipation — few having failed to notice the bustling line cooks and chorus of kitchen talk emanating from the back. Patrons passed glances of satisfaction like cocktail sauce.
“I can’t believe I’m having oysters… here,” laughed a glitter-coated girl at one table.
“To us, babe,” said her dining partner, another young lady seated across from her, raising a glass.
According to Brian Lizama, Broad Street Oyster Co.’s front-of-house manager, the low-key Malibu seafood joint’s popularity exploded during the pandemic. By the time Coachella was ready to return, the word was out.
“In the past few years, when Coachella has been closed, the Broad Street name has only gotten bigger,” he says.
At the festival, the restaurant’s pop-up offers a five-course meal — spanning a variety of seafood delicacies assembled by chef/ owner Christopher Tompkins — generously-flavored morsels like savory, buttery lobster on brioche rolls, a shrimp cocktail with tender prawns bigger than your fingers, and decadent oysters with an assortment of mignonettes, all meant to highlight the briny essence of the sea.
“We have great partnerships with our local vendors and we bring out as much equipment as we can to keep the food nice and cool on the way,” Lizama says. “All so people have the freshest seafood in the desert.”
Alongside an orgy of seafood, Broad Street Oyster Co. also offers two beach-inspired drinks, an assortment of wines, and three optional add-ons like oysters on the half shell. Exotic cocktail concepts like the Cape Codder — a blissed-out blend of Absolut Citron, cranberry, ginger, lime, and mint — and the Hemingway Special — a Malibu Lime Rum concoction with a citrusy punch — elevate the experience significantly.
The spread is a rare find even at a seaport, but with humble décor and a cozy seaside deck theme, the setting is an ideal way to commemorate a bond between friends, or a one-of-a-kind romantic memory. You might not expect this kind of ambiance from a humble seafood stand, especially in its temporary pop-up incarnation, but nearly as much thought seems to have gone into the build as it did the food.
“People are coming for our world famous lobster rolls, our fresh oysters, and our caviar,” Lizama smiles. “And they really seem to love what we bring to the table.”
Having witnessed the sea foodies at the festival ohhh-ing and ahh-ing over the setup, and devouring Broad Street’s food, the concept sure seems to be working. And it’s sure to make an even bigger splash on Coachella’s second weekend.