America’s 25 Best Oyster Bars
August 3, 2016
Oyster bars are an American institution and, just in time for Oyster Day, these are the best around
America’s 25 Best Oyster Bars
While the first person who ever dared to eat an oyster was certainly brave (to paraphrase Jonathan Swift), you can’t deny that these bizarre-looking creatures are insanely delicious. Whether eaten raw with a dash of mignonette, deep-fried, grilled, or prepared in dozens of additional ways, oysters are one of those perfect foods, and these 25 oyster bars are America’s best.
#25 Thames St. Oyster House, Baltimore
Photo by Matthew H. via Yelp
Located in Baltimore’s historic waterfront Fells Point neighborhood, this classic oyster bar features at least 10 different oyster varieties from both coasts, rotating on a daily basis. All seafood is sourced from reputable purveyors (local and sustainable whenever possible), and aside from oysters, there’s also a full menu with everything from a Rhode Island whole belly clam roll to bouillabaisse and grilled Portuguese rock octopus. Pull up a chair at the counter or grab a table in the courtyard or upstairs with a view of the water, and settle in for some truly spectacular seafood.
#24 The Port, Harwich, Mass.
Photo by Eric R. via Yelp
The Port is located in one of the most charming little Cape Cod villages you can imagine, serving vast quantities of oysters to locals and tourists alike for more than 10 years. Grab a seat at the raw bar any day from 3 to 5:30 p.m. and help yourself to $1 Chatham oysters as well as Stony Islands, Cotuits, and Brewsters, and be sure to try their oysters Rockefeller, made with Pernod, spinach, and cream.
#23 Acme Oyster House, New Orleans
Photo by Rachel C. via Yelp
Located smack dab in the heart of the French Quarter, this bustling, touristy restaurant also happens to be one of the best spots in the city for fresh Gulf oysters. Grab a seat at the bar and sample them in all three styles: raw with lemon and spicy cocktail sauce, chargrilled with a buttery sauce and plenty of cheese, or in a shot glass with cocktail sauce and vodka. And if you have any stomach space left over, don’t miss the Fried Peace Maker Po-Boy, brimming with fried oysters and Gulf shrimp.
#22 The John Dory Oyster Bar, New York City
The sleek, cosmopolitan oyster bar run by Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig, The Breslin) has a wide variety of seafood on its menu. It features both East and West Coast oysters and a raw bar menu with littleneck clams, whelks with parsley and butter and chilled Dungeness crab. Another must-try dish is the oyster pan roast with uni butter crostini.
#21 McGarvey's Saloon & Oyster Bar, Annapolis, Md.
Photo by Bea S. via Yelp
This oyster bar and saloon has everything you need for a night out on the town. Its happy hour offers $1 oyster shooters, $3 imported beers and wines, $5 appetizers, and $5 martinis and tall drinks. All oysters are freshly shucked and are paired with lemon, Maryland cocktail sauce, saltine crackers, and horseradish.
#20 Oyster House, Philadelphia
Photo by Alyson G. via Yelp
Come for the happy hour, stay for everything else. The Oyster House in Philly has a stellar happy hour that includes $1 oysters, $3 shooters, $3 drafts, and $5 cocktails. The bar always carries at least 11 types of oysters ranging from Wellfleets from Cape Cod to Fanny May from British Columbia, Canada.
#19 Boss Oyster, Apalachicola, Fla.
Photo by Tex F. via Yelp
Boss Oyster is a local spot in Apalachicola that has a very extraordinary menu. It serves up local Apalachicola oysters and dishes ranging from oyster stew to oyster jalapeño (with Monterrey Jack cheese and chopped jalapeños) to Apalachicola Bay oyster po’ boys. One of their specials is also the oyster taco, stuffed with fried oysters, refried beans, salsa, lettuce, tomato, and cheese.
#18 Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, Washington, D.C.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace in D.C. carries only the highest quality seafood with a variety of East and West coast oysters that are showcased on its menu. They also have their own signature oyster — Black Pearl oysters — grown in Oyster Bay located just above the northern tip of Chincoteague, Virginia. The Black Restaurant Group, which owns Pearl Dive, partnered with Daniel Grosse and Bruce Wood of Toby Island Oyster Company to grow these delicious oysters known for its well-balanced subtleties. Also try the “Angels On Horseback,” grilled bacon-wrapped oysters with vin blanc and a vinegar reduction.
#17 Chicago Oyster House, Chicago
The Chicago Oyster House is newish to the Windy City oyster bar scene, but is already winning over the crowds with its $1.50 oyster happy hour. It offers an outstanding list of West and East coast oysters with more than 60 varieties to choose from including Dutch Island, Otter Point, James River and Stellar Bay, just to name a few.
#16 Awful Arthur's, Kill Devil Hills, N.C.
Photo by Holly T. via Yelp
Located in the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina, Awful Arthur’s has the area’s only copper-topped oyster bar and accompanying ocean-view lounges. Oysters come in many ways here and can be crispy fried, served chilled, or in dishes like the Oysters Arthur, broiled with bacon, cocktail sauce, and topped with parmesan cheese. The interior of the restaurant is nautical-themed with its walls lined with brass ships’ bells. Guests can enjoy daily happy hours and specials in the lounge area on the top floor of the restaurant.
#15 GT Fish & Oyster, Chicago
GT Fish is heavy on the oysters, heavy on the cocktails. And that theme makes sense as many of the oysters appear in shooter form. The bar offers daily specials, a wide variety of oysters, superb ambiance and a killer cocktail list. One of the best is the “Electric Slide” made with Nolet’s gin, Benedictine, maple and lemon.
#14 Casamento's, New Orleans
Photo by Anthony P. via Yelp
Casamento's Restaurant in New Orleans has been an iconic culinary staple in the region since 1919. The casual dining restaurant boasts an oyster menu that features the bivalve in many ways: on the half shell, charbroiled, in a stew, fried, and in the restaurant’s famous “oyster loaf” sandwich, similar to a fried oyster po’ boy but on thick-sliced toast. While diners come for the food, they also come for the unique décor of the restaurant that’s been featured in many TV shows, films, and commercials.
#13 Matunuck Oyster Bar, South Kingstown, R.I.
Photo by Jack K. via Yelp
Owner Perry Raso spent most of his career as an oyster farmer, founding the Matunuck Oyster Farm in 2002, which was the impetus for opening the subsequent oyster bar. The Matunuck oysters are grown in Potter Pond, Rhode Island, and are the main draw on the raw bar menu. They also offer a sampler of Rhode Island oysters and items like littleneck clams, oysters Rockefeller, and lobster rolls.
#12 Pearl Oyster Bar, New York City
This Greenwich Village spot that was opened in 1997 by Rebecca Charles is best known for its lobster rolls—but its oyster list is not to be forgotten. The sleek, cozy spot has a long bar and small tables placed throughout two rooms, and there is often a long line around the corner to snag a coveted table. The oyster list changes daily, and the menu also features another favorite: fried oysters. The fried oyster roll with tartar sauce and shoestring fries is another New England specialty now made legendary by Charles.
#11 Hank’s Oyster Bar, Washington, D.C.
Photo by Norry H. via Yelp
Hank’s Oyster Bar, with two locations in D.C., hosts the “Feast of the 7 Oysters,” its take on the Feat of the Seven Fishes, for Christmas Eve during the holidays, a differentiator among other local oyster bars. The regular menu has seasonal oysters, sake oyster shooters, oyster po’ boy sandwiches, and many other items. Its brunch menu boasts Bloody Mary oyster shooters and Hog Island-style BBQ oysters.
#10 The Walrus and the Carpenter, Seattle
With a whimsical Lewis Carroll-inspired name for a pretty straightforward restaurant, The Walrus and the Carpenter is a six-year-old gem in the hip Ballard dining scene. At the raw bar, bearded men peddle at least eight different kinds of (primarily Washington State) oysters from ice-filled metal baskets while diners take in the industrial-chic interiors along with their grilled sardines with walnut and parsley, halibut ceviche with fennel and green apple, and local cheeses. If you want to try the best oysters that Washington has to offer, this is where you go.
#9 Island Creek Oyster Bar, Boston
Photo by Dannie W. via Yelp
The Island Creek Oyster Bar is all about farm to table. They encourage diners to know where their oysters come from, not to mention the beer and wine. Though the oyster selection changes daily, some popular ones that appear on the menu include the “house brand” Island Creek, Rocky Nook, and Beach Point, all sourced locally from Massachusetts. Don’t miss the crispy oyster sliders, served on brioche rolls with lime chile aïoli.
#8 Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, New York City
For sheer volume and variety as well as a bit of New York City Americana, the Grand Central Oyster Bar has made the cut. It’s been in business since 1913 and today the oyster list goes on for more than five pages, depending upon the season and availability of the oysters. Varieties include Baker from Washington State, Bristol Harbor from Rhode Island, and Cape Breton from Nova Scotia. Weekday happy hours offer $1.25 oysters, a couple of chowders, and fried oyster sliders, among other tasty treats. Make sure you try the oyster pan roast, a legendary creamy stew that’s been on the menu since day one.
#7 Hog Island Oyster Co., San Francisco
Located in the iconic San Francisco Ferry Terminal Building, with an additional location in Napa Valley, the Hog Island Oyster Co. showcases the beautiful views of the harbor. All of the oysters and seafood served at Hog Island are Food Alliance-certified sustainable. They offer a selection including Blue Pool from Hood Canal, Washington, and Glacier Point from Kachemak Bay, Alaska. Diners also love the grilled cheese and baked bagna cauda oysters with butter, garlic, capers, parsley, and anchovy.
#6 L&E Oyster Bar, Los Angeles
Los Angeles’ L&E Oyster Bar is nestled within the Silver Lake region. Local and national oyster farmers supply the daily oyster selections that have included varieties from Vancouver, Tomales Bay, Rhode Island, Long Island, Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard, among others. It updates its daily specials on Twitter orchestrated by chef and oyster director, Spencer Bezaire. The menu offers oyster dishes such as Rockefeller, casino, and Oysters L&E with duck confit, dried sour cherries, chives, and breadcrumbs.
#5 Neptune Oyster, Boston
Photo by Shawn H. via Yelp
Tucked away in Boston’s North End is Neptune Oyster, where chef Michael Serpa is creating some of the most delicious seafood preparations imaginable. You obviously need to order some oysters — the emphasis is on the East Coast varieties here — but make sure you work your way through the menu as well; the “Neptunes On Horseback” (deep-fried oysters with Berkshire pork and pistachio aïoli) will haunt your dreams, and the seven-ounce Maine lobster roll is one of the best you’ll find anywhere.
#4 Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco
Photo by Rebekah T. via Yelp
The menu at this small local spot in San Francisco is about as classic as it gets, featuring Olympia, Eastern, and Blue Point oysters, Cherry Stone clams, seafood cocktails, and “salads” with fresh seafood piled on a bed of lettuce. Not much has changed here since it opened in 1912, and the seafood is as fresh (and the counter staff is as skilled) as humanly possible.
#3 The Ordinary, Charleston, S.C.
The Ordinary in Charleston offers a full raw bar carrying East Coast oysters, and a specialty of the house are the Moscow oysters, topped with crème fraiche and caviar. To complement the seafood, there’s an extensive drink menu with beer and cider and homemade rum cocktails like the Moro, made with Bank’s Golden Rum, sherry, apricot liqueur, and orange bitters.
#2 Eventide Oyster Co., Portland, Maine
Eventide Oyster Co. showcases the finest oysters in the state of Maine. Oysters like the Norumbega, John’s River, and Basket Island are popular, as well as the selection from other locations such as the Fire River, Kusshi, and Kumamoto. Also a main draw for the restaurant is its New England Clambake, which includes steamers, lobsters, potatoes, salt pork, and hard boiled eggs.
#1 Elliott’s Oyster House, Seattle
Attention to detail and beautiful views are the name of the game at Elliott’s Oyster House, located on the historic Pier 56 on Seattle’s waterfront. The restaurant shucks all oysters to order and goes through roughly 7,000 weekly. The seasonal menu changes frequently and showcases oysters like Deer Creek, South Sound Kumamoto, and Snow Creek Pacific. Also on the menu are items like oysters Rockefeller, spicy Buffalo-style oysters, and pan fried oysters topped with homemade tartar sauce and Jack Daniel’s dipping sauce.