Where to Get Oysters in NYC This Summer
Hint: Grab them to go or dine al fresco.
Local NYC cuisine may evoke images of cheese slices or hot dogs, but nothing is as New York as the freshly shucked oyster. The hard-shelled bivalve, native to the waters that surround the five boroughs, was a culinary favorite of the Indigenous people who populated the island we now call Manhattan. Over the centuries, New York’s most everlasting food trend, the freshly shucked oyster, has prevailed and become an afterwork and weekend pastime many of us can’t get enough of.
So what makes a good oyster? A clean growing environment, a good farmer, a competent distributor, and most importantly, a superb oyster shucker, says Julie Qiu, self-proclaimed oyster goddess, nerd, and founder of In A Half Shell, an oyster appreciation website. “That last person who touches and opens your oyster? Make sure they are legit,” she advises. “We all know the value that a good barista, mixologist, or sushi master brings to the table. It's the same for the oyster shucker.”
Deciphering daily oyster varieties can be just as intimidating as an extensive wine list. Do you want the East or West Coast? Wellfleet or Kumamato? “The first thing to figure out is whether you prefer Atlantic or Pacific oysters, or both. [They] have very distinctive baseline flavor and texture profiles,” Qiu explains. “Atlantic oysters generally are savory -- think prosciutto, mushroom, and mineral notes -- and the texture is leaner and springier. Pacific oysters tend to be more vegetal -- think melon rind or cucumber -- creamy, and metallic, deeper-cupped, voluptuous. Both species will range in salinity, sweetness, and complexity depending on the grow-out location, seasonality effects, and age.”
Luckily, the most effective way to determine your oyster preferences is to taste different types. Qiu suggests trying as many oysters as you can from American coasts, ordering at least two of each kind, and no more than eight varieties at a time, if you're trying to conduct a proper tasting.
And the best way to eat an oyster? “Naked!” Qiu affirms. The oyster, not you, of course. “A great raw oyster does not need any accoutrements at all, in my opinion. It's the best way to truly appreciate the oyster's merroir, or unique taste that captures a particular place in a moment in time.”
Indulge in oysters at these top NYC spots, and if you plan to enjoy outdoor dining, as always, please wear a mask and social distance responsibly.
Pier 6, Brooklyn Bridge Park
Housed on a 140-foot antique wooden schooner (dating back to 1924), this seasonal outdoor oyster bar and seafood spot is authentically nautical, with striped awnings, straw stools, and plenty of out-to-sea decor. Brunch starts at 10am, so you can soak up skyline views, slurp a tray of East and West Coast oysters, and yes, drink, all before noon.
How to order: Reserve outdoor seating online, or via website
Pier 25, Hudson River Park
Head to the edge of the West Village for one of New York’s most unique oyster bars, where seafood lovers slurp back briny treats aboard a docked historic schooner. Inspired by the oyster barges of Manhattan’s 18th- and 19th-century dining scene, Grand Banks serves sustainably harvested oysters from the East Coast with an excellent cocktail sauce.
How to order: Make reservations online, or via website
The team behind Grand Army takes both drinks and oysters very seriously. The now-limited COVID-19 menu still features freshly shucked oysters at $3 a pop, though oyster enthusiasts can order the whole thing and shuck them at home. Thoughtful cocktails change seasonally, and beer nerds will find a sea of rare brews on tap and by the bottle.
How to order: Walk in for takeaway or first-come outdoor seating, preorder unopened oysters on website
This intimate West Village spot may be named after an entirely different mollusk, but their specialty includes delicious oysters and seafood, too. Order a seasonal selection of East and West Coast oysters served alongside a homemade chili-lime mignonette.
How to order: Call 212-242-7420 to reserve outdoor seating, or via website
Upper West Side
While the Chelsea, East Village, and West Village locations of The Mermaid Inn currently remain closed due to COVID-19, the Upper West Side locale of this popular nautical restaurant is serving up their beloved bivalve menu. Daily oysters start at $3 and are sourced from both coasts. They can also be enjoyed on deliverable platters, lush with fresh clams and tuna crudo.
How to order: Reserve outdoor seating on OpenTable
Hop on the ferry to Red Hook to explore this tri-level, open-air seafood shack. Several COVID-19 precautions are in order to keep the picnic-bench seating socially distant, including using a flag to hail servers. Soak in the distant view of the Statue of Liberty with a raw seafood platter along with stellar hot sauces with $3 oysters.
How to order: Call 718-643-2720 to reserve outdoor seating, or via website
Lower East Side
Before COVID-19, dining indoors within this natural wine bar’s dim lighting and dark interiors conjured a vaguely European small town. Oysters are $1 a piece every day until 7pm, and specials on $18 carafes of wine and tapas run until then, too. The three seasonal oyster varieties increase to $2.50 each after 7pm, to be supplemented with small plates, meats, and cheeses, and yes, plenty of wines by the glass.
How to order: Email email@example.com for outdoor seating
Part sustainable seafood market, part restaurant, Greenpoint Fish & Lobster is known for having some of the best oysters in the city, sourced from local fishermen. While the raw bar is currently closed, unshucked oysters (plus a shucking knife, if needed) are available for $1.25 each.
How to order: Via Mercato or visit the walk-up window
Lower East Side
Montauk pearl oysters served simply with lemon wedges and hot sauce are now on Sel Rrose’s recently revived limited menu. They complement an extensive list of natural wines and ready-to-drink cocktails, perfect for a takeaway picnic.
How to order: Reserve outdoor seating online, or via website
A tropical patio has popped up outside this popular Italian restaurant, replete with slushy cocktails, colorful umbrellas, lounge chairs, and, of course, a raw bar. Local oysters are sold by the dozen or half dozen, and seafood towers are also a nice way to splurge on a sunny day.
How to order: Walk in for outdoor seating
The recently reopened sidewalk cafe at Jeffrey's prime cornerside spot is the place to be (and people-watch) this summer. A daily selection of oysters are sold by the dozen or half dozen, though perhaps best enjoyed atop the crushed ice of an extravagant plateau, with crab claws, littlenecks, shrimp, and more.
How to order: Reserve outdoor seating via Resy, a takeout oyster kit can also be ordered online for pickup or delivery
The restaurant outpost of Chelsea Market’s popular seafood shop, The Lobster Place, is now offering its premium product for pickup and delivery in Manhattan. Up to six varieties are served daily, brought in directly from oyster farms on both coasts. Shucked oysters go for $3 each and a sampler platter with a dozen oysters (two of each from the daily lineup) goes for $32.95. Customers can also purchase unshucked oysters for $2 each.
How to order: Visit walk-up window with outdoor seating available on 16th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, or via Mercato
Littleneck’s original seafood shack has reopened with a limited takeout menu. Oysters by the half or full dozen go for market price, and can accompany raw littlenecks ($1.25 each) and a side of creamy chowder.
How to order: Walk-up window with outdoor seating available
Does anything feel more French than sipping wine outside on cafe chairs during the middle of the day? Maybe, but Le Gamin’s sidewalk cafe is as close to Paris as you’re getting this season, so slurp $3 local oysters here while the weather is nice. On weekdays, visit from 5-8pm, when $13 gets you a glass of wine, plus three oysters.
How to order: Outdoor seating available
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