America's Best Oyster Bars

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Dan & Louis Oyster Bar Restaurant; Portland, OR
Photo: Photo © Paul Schultz Photography

Here, F&W names our favorite oyster bars in the country.—F&W staff with additional reporting by Eric Steinman

01 of 22

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace; Washington, DC

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Pearl Dive Oyster Palace; Washington, DC
Photo © Jason Varney

The newest spot from DC empire builders Jeff and Barbara Black (BlackSalt, Black's Bar and Kitchen) is an urban fish shack inspired by the Gulf of Mexico, with two oyster bars and a menu of seafood gumbos and po'boys. Upstairs, Black Jack, another of the pair's restaurants, offers a wide-ranging pub menu, craft cocktails, a spiked-slushie machine and an indoor boccie court.

02 of 22

Eventide Oyster Co.; Portland, ME

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Eventide Oyster Co.; Portland, ME
Photo © Douglas Merriam

This restaurant in the Old Port district specializes in Maine oysters, including Winter Point Selects, a variety raised by the renowned harvester John Hennessey, in West Bath. "The Winter Points are about an inch and a half in size and have a very clean, bright and briny taste," says Eventide co-owner Arlin Smith. "A smaller oyster is special because it has amazing salinity." Hennessey also provides the restaurant with big, meaty seven- to 10-year-old oysters, which chefs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley roast in a thick, Korean-style barbecue sauce. The caramelized oysters are served in their shells, topped with coleslaw, crispy fried potato strings and a drizzle of chile oil.

03 of 22

L&E Oyster Bar; Los Angeles

America’s Best Oyster Bars: L&E Oyster Bar; Los Angeles
Photo © Sidney Bensimon

This newly expanded spot in the Silver Lake neighborhood has banquette seating and vintage light boxes that display the daily raw oyster menu. The impressive oyster selection includes varieties from all over the West and East coasts. Chef Spencer Bezaire offers three preparations for his grilled oysters: casino (butter, thyme and Nueske's bacon), a reinvented version of oysters Rockefeller (creamy spinach and aged white cheddar) and sautéed wild mushrooms with crispy bread crumbs.

04 of 22

Hog Island Oyster Bar; San Francisco

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Hog Island Oyster Bar; San Francisco
Photo courtesy of Hog Island Oyster Bar

For Bay Area shellfish lovers, the place to visit is Hog Island Oyster Co., in Point Reyes, located about an hour and a half north of San Francisco. The next best thing is to eat the fresh oysters at the wraparound bar at Hog Island's Ferry Building Marketplace outpost. Selections like glistening Sweetwaters are accompanied by Acme bread, which is baked just a few doors down.

05 of 22

The Walrus and the Carpenter; Seattle

America’s Best Oyster Bars: The Walrus and the Carpenter; Seattle
Photo © Ian Allen

Named for the oyster poachers in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, chef-owner Renee Erickson's Ballard neighborhood oyster bar specializes in Washington state bivalves. The selection constantly changes, but often includes sweet oysters from Samish Bay, and Hama Hama oysters from the mid-Hood Canal. A nice touch: The trays arrive with a cheat sheet identifying each oyster.

06 of 22

Casamento's; New Orleans

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Casamento’s; New Orleans
Photo © Cheryl Gerber

Locals adore this little oyster-centric family-owned restaurant on Magazine Street not just for its lived-in feel and historic cred—it's been around for more than 90 years—but for its Louisiana oysters, which are served raw, fried, stewed and more. Shuckers pull oysters out of a metal cooler and serve them simply with horseradish, Tabasco and a wedge of lemon. The famous oyster loaf is a tottering pile of fried oysters tucked between thick slices of buttery pan bread.

07 of 22

Elliott's Oyster House; Seattle

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Elliott’s Oyster House; Seattle
Photo courtesy of Elliot's Oyster House

Located on Seattle's Pier 56, this waterfront restaurant sources its sustainable oysters from local growers and offers more than 30 varieties every day, including buttery Kumamoto oysters that are cultivated in Washington's Oakland Bay and South Puget Sound. The staff members at Elliott's also volunteer their extra time to help seed, tend and harvest the oyster beds of a local community shellfish farm.

08 of 22

GT Fish & Oyster; Chicago

America’s Best Oyster Bars: GT Fish & Oyster; Chicago
Photo courtesy of GT Fish & Oyster Bar

At his chic seafood restaurant, chef Giuseppe Tentori, an F&W Best New Chef 2008, serves pristine oysters with inventive cucumber cocktail sauce and ponzu mignonette, as well as superb small plates that are popular with some of the city's top chefs. "They've got these amazing little lobster rolls and oyster po'boy sliders that are incredible," says local star chef Graham Elliot. "They also serve New England clam chowder in a little Mason jar."

09 of 22

The Ordinary; Charleston, SC

America’s Best Oyster Bars: The Ordinary; Charleston, SC
Photo © Squire Fox

Housed in a 1920s-vintage bank building, chef Mike Lata's oyster hall has 22-foot ceilings, majestic cathedral windows and a kitchen that's located in the former vault. The restaurant tweets its daily selection of East Coast oysters and regional house favorites like Capers Blades and Otter Island Wilds from South Carolina. Lata creates his own versions of low-country seafood classics, including baked Otter Island oysters with bottarga butter, and crispy oysters with beef tartare.

10 of 22

Neptune Oyster; Boston

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Neptune Oyster; Boston
Photo © Reena Bammi

This casual North End seafood spot specializes in East Coast oysters, offering nine varieties daily accompanied by the classic horseradish cocktail sauce and a Prosecco-based mignonette. The fantastic chef Michael Serpa offers playful preparations like Neptunes on Piggyback—crispy deep-fried oysters served with Berkshire pork and pistachio aioli—but the restaurant's most popular dish is the spectacular seven-ounce Maine lobster roll. The sandwich is offered classic- (cold with mayonnaise) or Connecticut-style (hot with clarified butter), and served in a toasted brioche roll from Iggy's, a local bakery.

11 of 22

The John Dory Oyster Bar; New York City

America’s Best Oyster Bars: The John Dory Oyster Bar; New York City
Photo © Clay Williams

Star chef-restaurateur duo April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman of the Spotted Pig gastropub oversee the restaurants at the super-hip Ace Hotel, including this boisterous corner seafood joint. Here, Bloomfield serves pristine raw oysters from both coasts, as well small plates like Italian crudo and arctic char pâté on house-made Parker House rolls. The chef also has an incredibly rich take on a classic, creamy oyster pan-roast served with uni-buttered crostini.

12 of 22

Hank's Oyster Bar; Washington, DC

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Hank’s Oyster Bar; Washington, DC
Photo © Greg Powers

Chef-owner Jamie Leeds worked with Dragon Creek Aqua Farm to develop the Hayden's Reef, the restaurant's signature meaty oyster that has a mild, sweet flavor and light brine. At the 65-seat flagship of her mini empire, Leeds offers six types of raw oysters from the East and West coasts as well as perfectly fried oysters and prized Ipswich clams from Massachusetts. Other popular dishes include a broiled soy-garlic glazed sablefish, and tender molasses braised short ribs.

13 of 22

Island Creek Oyster Bar; Boston

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Island Creek Oyster Bar; Boston
Photo courtesy of Island Creek Oyster Bar/Michael Piazzo

This casual oyster bar in the Hotel Commonwealth is co-owned by Skip Bennett, founder of Island Creek Oysters, the Duxbury Bay oyster farm that supplies some of the country's best restaurants. Co-owner and chef Jeremy Sewall serves stellar seafood dishes and offers a raw bar that showcases the magnificent, super-briny Island Creek oysters. Sewall also cooks next door at the stylish Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks.

14 of 22

Acme Oyster House; New Orleans

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Acme Oyster House; New Orleans

The neon sign that reads "Waitress Available Sometimes" and checkered tablecloths are part of the down-home appeal of this popular 100-year-old oyster house. The restaurant offers superfresh oysters harvested from local waters and served four ways: raw, chargrilled, deep-fried with creamy remoulade, and as a shooter: in a shot glass with vodka and hot sauce.

15 of 22

Boss Oyster; Apalachicola, FL

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Boss Oyster; Apalachicola, FL
Photo courtesy of Aprile C. / FLICKR

This rustic waterfront spot, which has been family-owned for more than 20 years, has a private oyster harvesting boat that gathers the shellfish from the bay five times a week. The Apalachicola Bay oysters are fantastic raw or baked with bacon, jalapeños, Colby cheese and hot sauce.

16 of 22

Tomales Bay Oyster Company; Marshall, CA

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Tomales Bay Oyster Company; Marshall, CA
Photo courtesy of Tomale's Bay Oyster Company

Located an hour outside San Francisco, this historic oyster destination is essentially a celebrated picnic spot overlooking Tomales Bay, where many of the oysters are farmed. Oysters can be purchased by the dozen or in bags of 50, and are served accompanied by shucking knives and gloves, lemons, limes and Tabasco.

17 of 22

Oyster House; Philadelphia

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Oyster House; Philadelphia
Photo courtesy of Oyster House

The walls of the bright, open dining room at this excellent seafood restaurant are decorated with beautiful vintage oyster plates collected by third-generation owner Sam Mink. Oysters arrive daily from mid-Atlantic, New England and Canadian waters, and are great with local craft beers like the intense Yards Love Stout, which is brewed with oysters in the kettle.

18 of 22

B&G Oysters; Boston

America’s Best Oyster Bars: B&G Oysters; Boston
Photo © Justin Ide

Barbara Lynch has six restaurants to her name, including the elegant French-Italian No. 9 Park. At her chic oyster bar, there are always a dozen daily-changing varieties on offer, all served with an ingenious Prosecco mignonette. Lynch also created some of the most creative lobster dishes in this crustacean-mad city, such as the BLT with lobster, and the chive-and-celery-studded lobster roll.

19 of 22

Matunuck Oyster Bar; South Kingstown, RI

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Matunuck Oyster Bar; South Kingstown, RI
Photo © Ron Cowie

The creation of oysterman Perry Raso, this superb seafood spot exclusively serves Rhode Island oysters, including Matunuck oysters from Raso's seven-acre farm in nearby Potter Pond. The farm offers educational tours of its shellfish operation, even allowing visitors to put on waders and explore the water.

20 of 22

Gilhooley's Raw Bar; San Leon, TX

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Gilhooley’s Raw Bar; San Leon, TX
Photo © Gary Wise

Located in the middle of a dirt-and-shell parking lot, with an aging boxcar bisecting the building, this rustic seafood shack serves superb shellfish supplied by Misho's Oyster Company, a large Texas processor. In addition to its fresh raw Gulf oysters, the bar is also popular for a barbecued dish called Oysters Gilhooley: fresh oysters topped with garlic-butter and Parmesan cheese, then smoked in a pecan-wood fire pit. 222 9th St.; 281-339-3813.

21 of 22

Swan Oyster Depot; San Francisco

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Swan Oyster Depot; San Francisco
Phot courtesy of Swan Oyster Depot

There's almost always a line at this terrific family-owned spot that recently celebrated its centennial anniversary, and serves outstanding fresh Olympia oysters as well as clams, sea urchin, crab and lobster from the West Coast. The 20-stool marble lunch counter is surrounded by maritime decorations including a mounted stuffed swordfish and framed fish posters. 1517 Polk St.; 415-673-2757.

22 of 22

Dan & Louis Oyster Bar Restaurant; Portland, OR

America’s Best Oyster Bars: Dan & Louis Oyster Bar Restaurant; Portland, OR
Photo © Paul Schultz Photography

This nautical-themed restaurant has been serving local oysters since 1907. The rotating oyster menu often includes varieties like the creamy, mildly salty Olympias from Washington state, and the sweet, cucumber-y Fanny Bays from British Columbia.

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