Behold the oyster—one of nature’s great gustatory delights. A favorite of Hemingway, who enjoyed his with ice-cold white wine (try Sancerre, Muscadet, Pouilly-Fume—or just step up with some champagne), it’s the original raw food movement. And now the bivalve is no longer just the domain of seafood shacks in beachside towns, because around America people are appreciating the mollusk more. Hence the vaunted oyster bar is making a classy comeback, minus the Go Shuck Yourself T’s, thankfully.
Brooklyn, New York
Boasting a Benjamin Button–era New Orleans Sazerac-sipping vibe, the house specialty at this hotel lobby–inspired hotspot is actually absinthe—it has the largest premium collection in NY. Pair cocktails with names like Confidence Man and Casablanca with $1 happy hour mollusks from a list of more than 30 East Coast varieties.
Manhattan, New York
Subterranean Lower East Side model magnet Chloe81 has now expanded upstairs—turning on its head the downtown New York formula of the failing eatery opening a crappy speakeasy below. In this case, a quality lounge has opened a fine restaurant above. The Parisian décor and dim lighting make the perfect combination for swilling champagne while your seafood is shucked.
Eventide Oyster Co.
Equally know for its sides of iced Tabasco shavings to top your oysters and its achingly cute waitresses, this Old Port hangout in party-centric Portland is centered around a immense bar, cut out of native Maine granite, that’s home to a constant refreshed collection of half shells, with at least 10 alone from the Vacationland state.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
From the couple that brought you the capital’s renowned BlackSalt Fish Market & Restaurant is chef Collen Conrad’s take on the Crescent City—but with sustainably sourced seafood adorned with QR codes that direct customers to detailed information on its native origins. Add to that a couple of bocce courts and a boutique collection of 35 bottles of wine picked to pair and you’ll be taking one deep dive indeed.
GT Fish & Oyster
Named after chef and Windy City culinary darling Giuseppe Tentori, this seasonal small-plater comes with crazy accouterments like cucumber cocktail sauce and ponzu mignonette for its post-10 p.m. half-priced oysters.
Clark’s Oyster Bar
The brainchild of 32-year-old native chef Larry McGuire—who has single-handedly helped put his city on the gastronomic map with five restaurants in as many years—ships in 16 species from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island to an immaculately decorated oasis in the landlocked city’s west side that boasts a marble-and-pecan bar and shaded outdoor desk.
L&E Oyster Bar
Los Angeles, California
This Silver Lake suckfest from chef Spencer Bezaire brings in more than 100 varieties with names like Endless Summer (Mexico), Naked Cowboys (Long Island), French Kiss (New Brunswick), and Pacific Gold, from up the road in Morro Bay.
Maybe the best part of this taproom in the Trailblazer town’s, er, Pearl District, are the year-round, farm-direct oysters, plucked from a tiled bin beneath a daily chalkboard menu, that you can take home in a to-go bag—just like the chefs from local restaurants that they supply through their wholesale oyster program. Or stay and have them baked, right out of concrete shucking stations, with garlic butter while you slam a Downtown Buck (house ginger beer with your choice of whiskey, brandy, or gin) next to the host stand, a pulpit from an old church along the Mississippi that was built in 1920—the year Prohibition began.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Emerald City fishing pub meets Marseille in chef Renne Erickson’s mod-monikered ode to local producers. Its daily menu is famous for marrying items like Hama Hama oysters from Washington’s Hood Canal with cocktails like the one known as the Mustache Ride.