Peanut shells scatter across the old wooden floorboards. At the far end of the bar, a shucker stands in front of an ice-filled glass case, prying the craggy shell off an oyster. This is Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish, and it’s what happens when a chef, Michael Kaphan, tries to escape the business, works for a wholesale-seafood company and moves north. Escaping the business might not have worked, but combining seafood, a farm, and a chef did. Today, the restaurant — set in a 1775 Colonial — does steady business seven nights a week. In addition to the fish, all sourced from co-owner Edward Taylor’s seafood company, Down East Seafood, the restaurant backs up to its own four-acre farm, where they’re growing everything from beets to asparagus.
Purdy’s menu rotates frequently, based on what’s fresh and in season, but there are some things that Kaphan, chef-owner-farmer of the restaurant, can’t take off the menu, lest he engender the ire of customers. There’s the bigeye tuna, for example, which is local June through December and sourced out from Hawaii or the Gulf of Mexico. Served with shrimp-and-vegetable fried rice, it’s the softness and relative fattiness of the fish that sets this one apart, says Kaphan. There’s also the scallop salad, served under a handful of frisée. Kaphan is dogmatic about his scallops: You won’t find any pumped up with sodium tripoly phosphate, although they might come lightly seared and served alongside bacon during brunch.
“We’re naked on the plate,” says Kaphan, “and that’s the hardest thing to do.”
Catch This: Florida white shrimp cocktail. Kaphan sources these shrimp from one producer in Florida who uses no chemicals and ships them north, fresh. A quick boil, and these large shrimp deliver juicy meatiness and perfect sweet character.