Austin's Best Raw Bars
While Austin may not be considered a seafood hotspot, the Texas state capital is nothing to scoff at when it comes to top-notch raw bars. Whether you're dining at Perla's (where fresh oysters are flown in daily from both coasts) or at Quality Seafood (where seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is the house specialty), you'll have a variety of delectable options at your fingertips.
• Perla's Seafood and Oyster Bar: Chefs Lawrence McGuire and Thomas Moorman Jr. opened Perla's in 2009. That same year Esquire named it one of the Best New Restaurants in the country. Perla's offers seafood from both coasts, including Pickle Points, Wellfleets, Blue Points, Royal Miyagis, Totten Inlets, and Kumamotos. If you're seeking a luxurious experience, order a bowl of creamy potato leek soup with fried gulf oysters, chives, and truffles.
• Parkside: Shawn Cirkiel's critically acclaimed gastropub, Parkside, serves a varying selection of 11 oysters every day plus a menu of original raw seafood dishes. For something new, try any of the crudos, such as the salmon with compressed watermelon, Thai chili, and cilantro. Bon Appétit even listed Parkside as one of the Hot 10 New American Taverns of 2010.
• Pacific Star Restaurant and Oyster Bar: Don't expect much by the way of atmosphere at this coastal seafood shack — snag an open picnic table on their patio, take a seat, and wait for your order to be served piping hot in red plastic baskets. Pacific Star specializes in simply prepared, fresh, local seafood. An order of oysters comes either Diablo-style, Ranchero-style, or on the half-shell.
Perla's Poco Platter (Photo courtesy of Yelp/Diana C).
• Quality Seafood Market: This true Austin institution opened its original market location in 1938, across the street from the Capitol. After a few moves, and changes in ownership, Quality Seafood is currently a restaurant, retail and wholesale market, and catering company. The restaurant offers a rotating selection of Gulf oysters and clams, plus mussels from Prince Edward Island. Be sure to ask about the special oysters of the day and check their Facebook page for blackboard specials.
The outdoor bar at Sam's Boat (Photo courtesy of Samsboat.com).
• McCormick & Schmick's: Over the span of four decades, Bill McCormick and Doug Schmick have opened nearly 80 high-quality seafood restaurants across the country. There are currently two locations of the restaurant in Austin, one is in the heart of downtown and the other is in the northwest corridor of the city, near the IBM campus. Both restaurants serve more than 30 varieties of seafood daily, sourced from numerous locations worldwide.