Food & Drink

Where to Eat Oysters Outside in Chicago Right Now

Indulge a little.

Quality Crab and Oyster Bah
Courtesy of Quality Crab and Oyster Bah

Summertime, and the living is… not so easy. It seems like we could all use an excuse to cast our 2020 troubles aside for a few moments and focus on the finer things in life -- namely oysters, preferably served raw and paired with a crisp lager or glass of bubbly. Here are a few fantastic places ready to help you pamper your inner self-care queen without endangering your health or the health of others. Just remember -- if you plan on dining in, try to reserve your table ahead of time and, for crying out loud, wear a mask, Chicago.

Quality Crab and Oyster Bah
Courtesy of Quality Crab and Oyster Bah

Quality Crab and Oyster Bah 

Lincoln Park
This Lincoln Park crab shack gets their fish flown in daily, ensuring that each delicate oyster lands on your plate as sparkling fresh as the day it was scooped up from the sea floor. And while you’re welcome to reserve a socially distanced spot at the “bah” to partake, you can also enjoy these palate pleasers from the comfort and safety of your sundrenched back deck by taking advantage of the spot’s speedy take-out and delivery service or by loading up in-person at their new and improved Saturday Seafood Market.

Frontier

West Town
Reserve your spot on this sunny Milwaukee Avenue terrace and prepare to feast on platter after platter of Chef Brian Jupiter’s famous char-grilled oysters, dusted with bread crumbs and nutty parmesan cheese then fired to perfection atop the open-air patio grill. Punch-style cocktails and an onslaught of ice cold beers are on hand to wash it all down.

Chop Shop 

Wicker Park
Ascend to this sprawling Wicker Park butcher-deli-restaurant-venue hybrid’s colorful rooftop patio on Wednesdays from 5pm to 7pm and you’ll be rewarded with a Humpday deal to end all deals: $1 oysters, shucked and dressed to order, escorted to the dance by half-priced bottles of wine. After you’ve had your briny fill, don’t forget to pick up a few backyard BBQ-bound NY Strips from the meat counter on your way out the door.

Dusek's
Courtesy of Dusek's

Dusek's 

Pilsen
This Michelin-vetted Pilsen mainstay offers a rotating selection of top-of-the-line oysters on the half shell to both patio-goers and those opting to carry out their orders. Pair those slippery suckers with one of the effortlessly cool gastropub’s many local brews or keep the good times rolling with a delicious batched and bottled “pocket cocktail” to-go.

Avec 

West Loop
This One Off Hospitality Group restaurant row pioneer is back at it, showering hungry Randolph Street patio hounds with award-winning Mediterranean-meets-Midwestern fare on a strict new reservations-only policy. The pared down outdoor menu spans the greatest hits, featuring dreamy wood fired oysters swathed in merguez-spiced butter -- the perfect prelude to a heaping serving of the joint’s world famous chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates, and, of course, a few glasses of hand picked, small batch wine.

Calumet Fisheries

Calumet Heights
This far Southside institution has been keeping Chicago’s slow-and-low smoked seafood dream alive since opening their humble family-owned doors back in 1948. The counter-serve operation continues to carry the torch today, dishing up bargain priced bivalves ($6.69 for a half order, $12.49 for the full) alongside other freshly caught oceanic delights for take-out seven days a week.

Tortoise Club 

River North
Don your most stylish facemask and traipse on over to this timelessly handsome lounge’s sidewalk patio Wednesday through Friday from 5pm to 6:45pm sharp to indulge in one of Chicago’s swankiest oyster happy hour deals. A single dollar gets you one expertly shucked bivalve or plump cocktail shrimp -- your choice -- both of which go down pretty dang easy when set to a sultry soundtrack of frosty gin martinis and live jazz.

GT Fish & Oyster 

River North
This sleek River North raw bar emporium is backed by the legendary Boka Restaurant Group, so you already know it’s going to be good. And the airy space fails to disappoint, with neatly appointed tables spilling out onto the sidewalk and a vast array of pristinely outfitted oysters hailing from all over the world. Both the fried version (crunchy oysters layered with zesty kimchi and peanuts and cradled in a soft slider bun) and their mignonette-laden uncooked counterparts are available for onsite and at-home enjoyment, the latter presented unshucked and accompanied by a shiny new oyster knife for a distinctly DIY edge.

Ina Mae Tavern
Ina Mae Tavern | Courtesy of Meghan Leigh

Ina Mae Tavern 

Wicker Park
Chef Jupiter strikes again with this New Orleans-accented Wicker Park winner, stocked with an inviting sidewalk patio that beckons passersby with friendly faces and a whole boatload of mouthwatering Southern comforts. Oyster-lovers have a few options here but the real ones know to make a beeline for the Po’Man’s Seafood Tower, a lavish, finger-licking pileup of fried shrimp, oysters, crawfish, and catfish sailing into the sunset on a bed of hushpuppies and crispy potatoes.

Prime and Provisions
Courtesy of Prime and Provisions

Prime & Provisions

River North
This elegant yet refreshingly approachable downtown steakhouse excels when it comes to seafood, hosting a standout roster of both East and West Coast oysters as well as a magnificent shellfish tower set ablaze with ginger mignonette, signature cocktail sauce, and tangy meyer lemon mustard sauce. Place your order for contactless delivery or curbside pick-up or suit up and reserve a spot on the large patio for sweeping riverfront views.

The Bar at Moody Tongue 

South Loop
Craft beer might have laid the foundation for this South Loop stunner’s recently reopened patio space but the beloved microbrewery’s culinary program can undoubtedly stand on its own two polished feet. Among a sea of cheffy goodness float the raw oysters, served on the half shell with puckery rice wine mignonette. Cut the brine with an inventive summer brew like Moody Tongue’s own Steeped Emperor’s Lemon Saison, a citrusty 6.3% crusher with just a hint of drying spice.

RPM Seafood 

River North
The latest addition to the Lettuce Entertain You’s sophisticated RPM fleet, this fish-focused enterprise perches along the scenic Chicago River and serves up a bounty of crudo, tartare, and yes, jaw-dropping seafood towers to sunbathing patio partiers by reservation only. Go big with cascading tiers overflowing with prawns, Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab legs, and raw oysters or roll solo with chilled oysters on the half shell decked out with game-changing yuzu granita. 

Bellemore 

West Loop
Every dish landing on this upmarket Fulton Market outpost’s lush patio showcases Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos’ unparalleled talent, true, but the master’s touch really shines when it comes to oysters. The freshies -- Candadian Chebooktook for the summer menu but look out for regular updates -- come with fermented tomato, lemon, and horseradish for kick, and run just a dollar a pop during happy hour (weekdays from 4pm to 6pm). Stay tuned for cooler weather when Chef’s lauded oyster pie might just make a comeback.

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Meredith Heil is a contributor for Thrillist.