When I grab a seat at the bar at Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, I’m so happy when I see Toni Lopes. She not only shucks oysters perfectly, she’s also warm and welcoming and we always have a good catch up. I’ve known her a good little while now and I’m pretty sure that I first met Toni at The Local Oyster at Mt. Vernon Marketplace. But she’s one of those people you feel like you’ve just always known, she’s that kind of person – very easygoing and thoughtful. She’s also a kind of no BS person, too, and in a world that seems to be so “surface”, Toni is the opposite – she’s real. We need more real.
Back in 2019 (aka in the “before times”), I was lucky enough to go to the National Oyster Shucking Championships in St. Mary’s County. I was invited by my friend John Shields (truly the nicest man in Baltimore) to judge an oyster cooking competition over the two day festival. While we had some time in between events, I was able to go and watch Toni compete in the shucking competition. It was so exciting! She did great, I was very proud of her – the competitors were the best in the entire country. And in a few years later in 2022, she did even better, placing 3rd overall!
Make sure you go to Dylan’s and sit by the shuckers. It’s the best. So thankful Toni agreed to be a part of this series. ps. Even if you are not an oyster fan, you must go to Dylan’s — excellent (non-oyster) food on the menu. My favorites are the potato skins, kale salad and the burger. Daily specials are always a hit, too. The best. Love this place and the people there.
Cake or Pie? And what kind?
Pie; savory preferably with mushrooms
Your most prized possession?
My Dale German shucking knife.
What’s your favorite thing to order out at restaurants?
Dumplings/Any ‘pocket’ food; BLTs; Appetizers; Gyros
What’s your favorite to cook at home?
What’s your morning beverage and how do you take it?
Usually some kind of tea or water (I like iced)
What’s your personal motto?
“It works til it doesn’t work.” And, “Good people find the good people.”
What’s your favorite holiday and why?
Thanksgiving, my family makes good food and always too much (plus, my birthday lands on it every few years).
Best advice you were ever given? And from whom?
“Don’t go to bed mad.”- my grandma
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
I guess graduating college &/or being a nationally-ranked oyster shucker – 2022 3rd place female shucker in the nation! Toot toot!
The last text you sent?
“Love you gals, too – had a lot of fun w you both.”
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Living in peace surrounded by nature.
What do you love most about food?
It’s a universal bond and automatic human connecter.
What’s your favorite place in Baltimore?
Druid hill Park
Toni photo via Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun and header photo via Dylan’s
Baker’s Dozen is an occasional column highlighting some of the very talented, hardworking and kind folks in the Baltimore food + beverage community. I hope you will make a point to support their businesses.