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Dwelley at work. Photo via Taylor Shellfish Farms.

Image: Kelly Cline

Xinh Dwelley is oyster royalty, her restaurant in Shelton a shellfish pilgrimage. Now you have little more than a month to make the trip; Taylor Shellfish Farms just announced that Xinh's Clam and Oyster House will serve its final bowls of oyster stew and curried mussels on October 29.

But let's back up a bit. Dwelley arrived in the US from Vietnam in 1970. She and her husband put down roots near Olympia and soon after, Dwelley went to work as a shucker for the venerable Taylor family's oyster business. She was good. So good that Dwelley won the West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship five times. But her skill at cooking Taylor's harvest earned her even more acclaim; Dwelley applies an Asian sensibility to the company's pristine shellfish—clams in black bean and hoisin sauce, breathing lemongrass; tamarind prawns over jasmine rice; her famous mussels in curry. 

In 1996 the company gave Dwelley her own restaurant, which quickly became a fixture in Shelton, and a destination for Seattleites who happen to be anywhere in the vicinity.

The message posted by Taylor makes it sound like Dwelley is, understandably, ready for a kinder schedule, and a life that isn't consumed by running a restaurant. She'll still represent Taylor at plenty of events around the region (a steaming bowl of stew from Xinh is a traditional end to Taylor's wintertime Walrus and Carpenter picnics). Her oyster stew and geoduck chowder—both Xinh Dwelley signatures—will still be available at Taylor's Seattle-area oyster bars. Taylor will hang onto the space at 221 W Railroad Ave for events and food prep.

If you're making the trip for one last meal at Xinh's Clam and Oyster House, reservations seem like a good idea. The restaurant will maintain its normal Thursday–Saturday hours through its final day, October 29.

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