The Best Places in the U.S. for Oyster Lovers

For those who can’t get enough of those delicious bivalves, here are 30 amazing places to enjoy them.

1201 Alaskan Way Ste 100, Seattle, WA 98101, USA
On a pier that’s over a century old, Elliott’s Oyster House has been one of Seattle‘s best places for seafood for over three decades. All of the iconic tastes of the Pacific Northwest are here—Dungeness crab, wild salmon, and, of course, oysters. The varieties of the rocky bivalves are reliably fresh—all local and sustainably caught. And, if you don’t like to slurp them au naturel, try the “Oysters Rockefeller,” baked with spinach, Pernod, and bacon, and topped with hollandaise. With skyscrapers behind you, water below you, and mountains across the Sound, a meal on this pier is one of the highlights of any stay in Seattle.
579 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA
Owned and operated by the same husband and wife team since 1977, Anchor Oyster Bar in the Castro has been serving up the same fresh seafood dishes for decades. Head here for classics like shrimp cocktails, clam chowder, seafood salads, and, of course, oysters on the half shell; try the Anchor Special for oysters, steamed clams, and chilled prawns. Anchor Oyster Bar is open Mondays through Saturdays from 11:30 am to 10 pm and Sundays from 4 to 9:30 pm.
89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, USA
The Grand Central Oyster Bar celebrates its 100th anniversary this year as a New York institution. Located in the lower concourse of Grand Central, it serves over 25 varieties of oysters daily. There is a huge menu of American seafood—chowder, fried clams, lobster rolls, clams casino—whatever you are looking for, they will have it. The Oyster Bar is also famous for its architecture—the beautiful arched tile ceilings are the hallmark of famed Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino, who left his unique stamp across NYC. Take your pick from three different seating areas: a series of old-fashioned, U-shaped counters which seem to be popular with tourists and locals; the oyster bar, which would be perfect for singles or those dining in pairs; and the saloon-type restaurant in the back, popular with the business crowd. Wherever you are sitting, it will be bustling with activity. While there are several other oyster bars in the city, the Grand Central Oyster Bar offers a piece of New York history. It’s like stepping back in time, a retro celebration of old Americana that generations of locals, tourists and travelers have visited over the years. My suggestion is to stop in for fresh oysters and cold beer at the bar.
1200 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703, USA
Clark’s is a small, West Austin neighborhood restaurant for fresh oysters, simply prepared seafood, sustainable selections of caviar, house baked bread, hamburgers, brunch and a carefully curated beverage program. Opened in Fall of 2012 by chefs Larry McGuire and Thomas Moorman, Clark’s won’t disappoint. Must try: Crab Cake: Mache & Frisee Salad, Pickled Shallots, Hollandaise New England Clam & Sweet Corn Chowder: Chive & Chervil, Oyster Crackers Happy Hour 50¢ Off Oysters, $2 Off Beverages Monday – Friday, 3 - 6 pm
86 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101, USA
Local is the operative word in the Portland, Maine food scene. Ask a waiter what Atlantic Day-Boat halibut is exactly, and he’ll spin a story about the local captain who pulls in with the day’s catch. At the height of summer, it seems that every ingredient is caught, raised, foraged, or grown in the vicinity. So it’s no surprise that Maine oysters take pride of place at Eventide Oyster Co. Sure, there are some bivalves from New York and the West Coast, but my advice is to quiz the waitress about the ones from West Bath, Casco Bay, and the Damariscotta River. A hit of frozen Tabasco came on the house, but these plump beauties are best with just a squeeze of lemon.
Pleasure House Point, Virginia Beach, VA 23455, USA
Conventional wisdom says that one should only eat oysters in months that end in “ber,” but that means for an awfully oyster-less winter and summer. Now that oyster-harvesting technology has improved, you can enjoy one on the half shell year-round, and Virginia’s waters are known for some of the best bivalves. The Lynnhaven River has been famed for their oysters as far back as the 1600s, until environmental conditions closed the river in the 1960s. Pleasure House Oysters is trying to bring back the Lynnhaven oyster, offering tours of their farm and the river, taking up to six people out on a boat for a two-hour tour. If you prefer to slurp on the shore, Lynnhaven oysters are also served at Virginia Beach restaurants Terrapin, Eurasia, and Zoe’s Steak and Seafood anytime.
698 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
Restaurateur Brooks Reitz built his name with this chicken-and-oyster joint that feels old-school despite its carefully crafted ambiance. On a first visit, it’s sinful not to order the perfectly salted, crispy/juicy fried chicken amalgam shellacked with a glaze of Old Bay and cayenne suspended in melted lard. That necessitates a second visit to gorge on the poached char-grilled lobster and sausage, or the Leon’s Fish Fry, a platter of shrimp, oysters and catfish. Leon’s was the first to open way-Upper King, now the restaurant hotbed, and it’s held onto its cool status thanks to its thoughtful buildout in a restored auto body shop, retaining the exposed rafters and a rollup garage door that opens to a patio out front.
1521 Melrose Avenue
This casual open-air seafood bar inside the Melrose Market food hall is perfect for people-watching on a sunny afternoon. Order up a selection of oysters to share or try the geoduck sashimi, a local clam with a sweet mild flavor. Wash it all down with local brews from Pike Brewing or Elysian Brewing Company.
18 Cornelia Street
Before lobster rolls were trendy in New York, there was Pearl Oyster Bar. Open since 1997, this tiny, no-reservations restaurant still has a solid 45-minute wait for a table on any given weekend night. But those who have eaten here will tell you it’s worth it, whether you dine at the namesake bar or in the cozy adjoining dining room (this is not a place to take big groups). Of course the fresh oysters and lobster roll are sure bets, but don’t overlook whatever whole fish they are serving that day, which can be enjoyed pan roasted or grilled.
41 Union St, Boston, MA 02108, USA
Come for the history, stay for the chowder. Bostonians have been slurping down oysters at America’s oldest continuously operating restaurant since 1826, and while you won’t find Union Oyster House on any haute dining lists, it’s well worth a stop when you’re walking the Freedom Trail or exploring the area around Faneuil Hall. Sidle up to the semicircular oyster bar right inside the front door just like Daniel Webster once did, or feast on a classic New England shore dinner in the upstairs dining room, away from the crowds. There you’ll find a plaque marking the booth where JFK liked to scarf baked beans and clam chowder—one of the restaurant’s many reminders of its long history of catering to celebrities.
298 Bedford Avenue
Maison Premiere’s French influence invites you into another era around its marble horseshoe bar. If you come early, you can take your time here. We were lured by the $1 oyster special during happy hour. It all washed down well with a boozy sazerac and a sweet Pimm’s cup (as pictured). If your liver is craving more, MP has the largest collection of premium absinthe in New York City, centered around “the world’s most accurate working replica of an absinthe fountain,” according to their site. It’s a great place for your day drinking needs.
36 Main St, Gloucester, MA 01930, USA
I’m not sure I’d choose the combo of pizza and oysters for a menu, but after eating at Short & Main’s nearby sister restaurant Market, I’d trust just about anything to come out of their kitchen. Much to my surprise, starting a meal with the sweetest of light, local oysters made a perfect beginning to the delicious brick oven mushroom pizza that followed. Thin and crunchy crust just the way I like it, combined with local and fresh ingredients. Additional local raw bar and salad items round out the selections. If the timing is right, don’t miss the $1.00 oyster available the first and last hour of service. I can’t wait to return.
700 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009, USA
If you’re visiting NYC, head to the East Village for bars and restaurants. Specifically head to Avenue C if you love cocktails. There is a stretch of great cocktail bars, a few dives and a collection of restaurants on Avenue C between 5th street and 11th street. The Wayland is by far the best. The decor is old, worn-in New Orleans. They have free live music a few nights a week, amazing cocktails, some of the best share plates and sandwiches in the city … and killer oyster shooters. They come with a tequila shot, an oyster and a Sangrita to wash it all down. Perfect recipe for any leisurely afternoon. Other good bars on this street include Summit Bar, Esperanto (good patio), Royale for a burger and Evelyn. For more info, visit the link below
All aboard Grand Banks, a seasonal oyster bar on the historic Sherman Zwicker, the last of a large fleet of schooners that fished the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic and traded goods in South America. It’s docked at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 and serves sustainably-sourced oysters, small plates, and a long list of refreshing cocktails, wines, and beer.
320 E Grace St, Richmond, VA 23219, USA
Seafood is the star at Rappahannock Restaurant in downtown Richmond. This is the third venture of the Croxton family, which has played a major role in the Chesapeake Bay oyster resurgence. The restaurant’s raw bar features four oyster varieties, clams, and caviar; Virginia fish and meat round out the menu. Cocktails are given similar reverence and made with fresh, seasonal ingredients to complement the food. Should you wish to go straight to the source, the Merroir tasting room is an hour from Richmond and overlooks the Rappahannock River where the oysters are grown.
736 S Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102, USA
Broadway Oyster Bar wears many hats. First and foremost, it’s an oyster bar, serving bivalves in a variety of fashions, from raw and char-grilled to fried and Rockefeller style. It’s also a solid bar, where a lot of folks come to party both before and after Cardinals games. Finally, it’s one of the finest music venues in St. Louis—or at least the most fun—with live shows twice a day, save for Fridays when one act plays the whole night. Expect local and national bands, plus a lot of New Orleans artists, playing anything from bluegrass to rock and reggae. Between all the eating, drinking, and music, take some time to learn the history of BOB. It’s housed in a building from the 1840s—one of the oldest in the city that’s still in use—that has served as a boardinghouse, Chinese laundry, record store, and bordello over the years. Naturally, it’s said to be haunted.
550 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116, USA
While I think you’ll find the best New England clam chowdah right here in Boston, everyone has their favorite location to slurp it. Do you like it thick enough to hold a spoon upright or thinner with more broth, served in a bread bowl and loaded with clams and potatoes? B&G Oysters, Ned Devines, Legal Sea Food and Turner Fisheries are a few of the top contenders, but I’m going to recommend you make your own decision. With many award winning varieties, it’s on just about every menu. Try a bowl at least once during your visit and taste a northeast specialty.
544 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
A two-story dining room with an always-packed raw bar, The Ordinary serves some of the South’s best seafood. Here, chef Mike Lata dishes up must-try options like a seafood tower, crab toast, fish chowder, and triggerfish with fingerling potatoes. While the lobster roll is only on the menu as a Tuesday special, you can ask for it any day of the week and the chef will happily make you an order. Also worth requesting is the barbecue shrimp, which Lata poaches in a creamy sauce infused with Worcestershire and sets atop charred sourdough. Just be sure to book a table early. Groups should request the downstairs booths, while solo diners without reservations should order a cocktail and wait for a seat at the raw bar.
115 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Ralph Brennan’s Red Fish Grill pairs eclectic, of-the-sea décor with some of the best seafood in town. Don’t miss the BBQ oysters with Crystal Hot Sauce and blue cheese dressing. Next door, Bourbon House is known for its towering plateaux de fruits de mer, which comes with oysters with caviar, boiled Gulf shrimp, mussels, crab fingers, and seafood salad, and its impressive bourbon selection. Donald Link’s latest endeavor, Peche, is to seafood what Cochon is to pork. On Magazine Street, Casamento’s is an institution for its oyster loaf and fried seafood platters, plus it’s fun to watch the hulking shuckers tackle piles of just-off-the-boat bivalves.
930 Tchoupitoulas Street
Cochon is the brainchild of chefs Donald Link (also of Herbsaint and Pêche Seafood Grill) and Stephen Stryjewski, who have taken Cajun-style cooking out of the comic books and given it an updated, serious sensibility. You’ll find pretty much every part of the pig on their menu, and every bit of it cooked with panache, like Louisiana Cochon (extremely tender, long-cooked pork) served with turnips, cabbage, and crackling skins. Or try the fried alligator with chili aioli. This is a great restaurant for dining with a small group, so you can pass and share—the flavors always pop on the first bite, and it’s a treat to sample this dish and that, one after the other.
800 Magazine St
I forgave the service (slow as molasses) at Donald Link’s newest seafood spot, Peche, where highlights included crab-and-chilies capellini, fried bread, and fish sticks. Go with a crowd and order everything.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: United States
Journeys: Sports + Adventure