Food & Drink

The Most Underrated Oyster Spots in New York City

Published On 04/09/2015 Published On 04/09/2015
Barn Joo
Courtesy of Barn Joo

No matter the time of year, there are plenty of excellent places to enjoy a dozen (or two) of everyone’s favorite bivalve in New York (especially at happy hour), but once you’ve made the requisite summer trips to Grand Central Oyster Bar, Maison Premiere, Upstate, John Dory, and Mermaid Inn, spend the rest of the year checking out some of the city’s lesser-known oyster spots -- from fried oysters on a picnic table out on City Island to East Coasters on the half-shell with a Julie Reiner cocktail in Carroll Gardens.

Johnny's Reef

City Island

Far out on the pier at City Island sits Johnny’s Reef, which brings in a steady stream of New Yorkers (and almost as many seagulls) eager for a New England-style outing without actually leaving the city. The cafeteria-style eatery offers hefty orders of fried oysters (for those averse to slurping) piled on a heap of fries that will set you back a mere $15 (cash only, of course). Take advantage of the sauce bar offering endless ketchup, tartar, and hot sauces and lean into the casual scene complete with plastic red tray and picnic-table seating overlooking Long Island Sound.

Courtesy of Upholstery Store

Upholstery Store: Food & Wine

West Village

If throwing back oysters as fast as they come out isn’t your style, head into Upholstery Store, a casual-yet-intimate West Village spot where Austrian chef Kurt Gutenbrunner creates works of art on the half shell that you’ll want to take your time with. Expect specialty oysters topped with creative adornments like salmon roe and chive, uni, and pickled celery, as well as a refreshing cucumber & mint combo, all to be savored slowly by the bar or on a plush sofa.

Courtesy of MP Taverna

MP Taverna

Astoria

In a sea of Greek restaurants doling out fresh red snapper and grilled octopus, Michael Psilakis’ dual-level Astoria restaurant/late-night hangout stands out for its sizable Virginia-imported oysters, offered every day for $1 from 3:30-6:30pm (and $2 after that). Take advantage of your oyster platter outside on the patio on a crisp fall evening and join in on the neighborhood chatter as you people watch down Ditmars Blvd and sip a very Greek limonada, spiked with ouzo.

Courtesy of Crave Fishbar

Crave Fishbar

Upper West Side

In an area of Manhattan that’s still not known for its food scene, a decent oyster happy hour can be hard to find. Enter Crave: a slightly upscale, sustainable seafood restaurant that focuses on all things fish. A daily listing of oysters lets you pick which unique varieties you want on your seafood tower (if you don’t know, ask a shucker!). If you’re looking for something a little less involved, come between 5-7pm Monday-Friday and 4-6pm on Saturday and Sunday, when both East and West Coast oysters are $1.

Grand Army

Grand Army

Boerum Hill

The team behind Grand Army takes both drinks and oysters very seriously. Icy platters of East Coast oysters are served with fancy lab-like droppers that house various sauces (including cocktail, mignonette, and more) for optimal sauce-application precision. On the drinks side, you’ll find seasonal options that use ingredients like ceylon-tea-infused-milk-washed Brooklyn gin. Beer nerds can will also find a sea of rare brews both bottled and on tap, like dry-hopped sour ale from Massachusetts’ Mystic and barrel-aged peach saison from Brooklyn’s Other Half.

Courtesy of The Clam

The Clam

West Village

This intimate West Village spot may be named after an entirely different mollusk, but that doesn't mean it doesn’t know what it’s doing with oysters, too. With plenty of flickering candles and exposed brick, The Clam is the perfect place to bring a non-shellfish-allergic date, grab a seat at the not-crowded bar, and order a seasonal selection of East and West Coast oysters. Oysters are served alongside a homemade chili-lime mignonette that you may just want to drink by the flute-ful (though we strongly suggest you don’t).

Courtesy of Barn Joo

Barn Joo

Flatiron

This cavernous not-quite-clubstaurant offers a daily happy hour from 4-7pm, with $1 oysters served, interestingly, alongside a cocktail sauce that’s dashed with spicy Korean pepper paste and a pomegranate vinegar mignonette. If you’re craving oysters after 7pm, go for the chilled variety with toppings like salmon roe and pickled radish as a precursor to an order of bibim paella and bulgogi tacos.

Courtesy of Brooklyn Crab

Brooklyn Crab

Red Hook

Hop on the ferry to Red Hook (or just take an Uber, if you’re feeling especially lame) to explore this tri-level seafood shack. On the lower level, you’ll find a bar ready to pour out beers and serve freshly shucked East and West Coast oysters along with a side of cornhole. On the upper levels, there’s plenty of picnic-bench seating for enjoying a raw seafood platter along with the world’s best hot sauces -- not to mention a pretty decent view of the Statue of Liberty. Instead of a happy hour, Brooklyn Crab does Happy Days on Mondays and Tuesdays, offering house oysters (Barcats from Virginia) for $1 all day and night.

Greenpoint Fish & Lobster | Jane Bruce

Greenpoint Fish & Lobster

Greenpoint

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. Bypass the tempting groceries (you can buy some on your way out) and head for the raw bar, where monger-selected East Coast oysters are $1.50 each on weekdays from 2-6pm and draft wine costs just $6. Let a shucker or server explain the differences between the regional oysters as you taste your way through the tri-state area and beyond.

Extra Fancy

Extra Fancy

Williamsburg

Don’t let the name mislead you -- you’re welcome to order as many oysters as you’d like while wearing a T-shirt and jeans (maybe even sweatpants, if you’re feeling especially daring). Late-night happy hour at Extra Fancy lasts from 11pm-2:30am Sunday-Thursday with $2 select oysters. In a Williamsburg that now boasts more designer boutiques and luxury condos than ramshackle art studios, this beloved spot maintains an air of unpretentiousness and seriously carefree vibes.

Courtesy of Clover Club

Clover Club

Carroll Gardens

Known mostly for its cocktails by mixology queen Julie Reiner, this dark, cozy lounge is a fantastic hideaway to eat oysters late into the night, especially if you get a prime fireside seat. Cuddle up on a chaise lounge with a cocktail from the pages-long drink menu and slurp down one of the two renditions of East Coast oysters on offer: standard raw on the half shell with red wine mignonette, or the Oysters “Rock Your Face Off,” aka fried oysters with “Rockefeller" aioli.

Sel Rrose

Sel Rrose

Lower East Side

Sel Rrose converts from a coffee shop to a cocktail bar come late afternoon, and with that comes platters of both East and West Coast oysters (and fried oysters for the slurp-phobic) alongside sophisticated craft cocktails stirred with house-infused liquors and refined syrups. Slink away in a corner with a book and beverage or gather your friends for $1 oyster happy hour, Monday-Thursday from 5-7pm and Friday-Sunday from 4-6pm.

Zadie’s Oyster Room | Morgan Lone Year

Zadie's Oyster Room

East Village

Marco Canora’s relatively new East Village oyster bar seeks to revive the old-school oyster house with oysters seven different ways (raw, pickled, poached, baked, broiled, fried, or steamed) alongside other seafood bites like crab cake sliders and smoked bluefish paté. Stop by the intimate bar during the week and post up at a high-top for half-off select oysters, Champagne, and beer.

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Melissa Kravitz is a writer based in NYC.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Johnny's Reef 2 City Island Ave, Bronx, NY 10464 (Bronx)

This counter-service seafood shack has been serving steamed and fried seafood on City Island since the 1950s. Bring cash and pray for sunny skies, so you can take your food out to one of many waterfront picnic tables on the patio.

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2. Upholstery Store 713 Washington St, New York, NY 10014 (Greenwich Village)

A good selection and complimentary bowls of Parmesan parsley popcorn at the bar.

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3. MP Taverna 31-29 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, NY 11105 (Astoria)

Chef Michael Psilakis’s MP Taverna Astoria serves variations on the kind of Greek fare that's been satisfying hungry bellies for decades, but with a fine dining twist. On the menu at this double decker restaurant are classics like lamb meatballs and souvlaki, salads, small plates, and mezze platters, and fresh caught seafood dishes. The chic space adds a level of swankiness to your meal.

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4. Crave Fishbar 428 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024 (Midtown East)

This nautical-themed Upper West Side restaurant (with a sister location in Midtown) is your one-stop-shop for everything seafood. Crave serves classic maritime dishes with a twist, like Southeast Asian-inspired lobster curry and house-made squid ink spaghetti with chopped shrimp. The raw bar features more than a dozen varieties of East and West Coast oysters that pair well with creative house cocktails or glasses of crisp white wine.

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5. Grand Army 336 State St, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Take the unpretentious attitude of a neighborhood bar, New York food and drink veterans, a cocktail-and-seafood focused menu, and the result is Grand Army in Boerum Hill. The team, which includes heavy hitters from Prime Meats, Rucola, Mile End, and Alder, delivers a reliable roster of oysters and out-of-this-world cocktails that, unsurprisingly, taste best at happy hour.

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6. The Clam 420 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

The Clam has brought an ode to everybody's favorite mollusk, and the Atlantic Seaboard at large to the city with the titular shellfish worked up in a bunch of interesting ways.

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7. Barn Joo 893 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 (Flatiron)

Evoking both a hip Brooklyn nightspot and an actual barn, this hybrid Korean tapas restaurant, bar, and performance space fills the bottom floor of the Hotel Verite with a long, heavily wooded bi-level banquet hall. Shareable Korean eats liked fried dumplings and kimchee bacon pancakes dominate the menu, while picks like truffle mushrooms assert this gastropub's trendy likability.

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8. Brooklyn Crab 24 Reed St, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Make the trek out to Red Hook for authentic, crab-shack style seafood fare, picnic tables and all. Inspired by the seafood shanties of the Mid Atlantic coast, Alma restauranteurs Jamie Vipond and Matthew Bohner opened Brooklyn Crab to bring summertime vibes to the Big Apple all year round. Situated in a cozy spot overlooking the New York Harbor, Brooklyn Crab's killer views are just a drop in the bucket of reasons worth checking it out: the welcoming atmosphere, rotating seasonal menu options, patio deck, and solid happy hour deals aren't so bad, either.

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9. Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. 114 Nassau Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

At Greenpoint Fish and Lobster Co., you can expect to find only the highest quality of sustainably sourced seafood. This narrow spot -- awash in white tile and blonde wood with a seating area surrounding a marble bar and open kitchen -- is nothing short of a seafood haven. Head to the market in the front and do some grocery shopping of your own, where you'll find plenty of options on the ice.

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10. Extra Fancy 302 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Williamsburg's Extra Fancy serves fried, grilled, and raw seafood, like fish & chips and lobster bisque fries, plus a notable secret sauce-topped burger. It's open late -- until 2am every night -- and its special late-night menu will have you covered should you ever get a midnight lobster roll craving. The brick-and-wood interior is reminiscent of a New England seafood shack, albeit a hipster one.

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11. Clover Club 210 Smith St, New York, NY 11201

From Julie Reiner (Flatiron Lounge) and her protege, cocktail legend Ivy Mix, this tearoom-style spot charms with pressed tin ceilings, velvet-upholstered settees, and a 19th-century mahogany bar. In keeping with the casual-sophisticated vibe, dinner fare includes everything from mac & cheese and steak frites to steak tartare and caviar service, while the cocktail selection, which includes numerous variations on Old Fashioneds, cobblers, punches, cocktails, and five other categories, will have the most experienced of drinkers excited with options. For a new take on a real classic, start with the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, which combines rye, maraschino, absinthe, and bitters.

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12. Sel Rrose 1 Delancey St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Oysters and inventive cocktails are the focal point of this industrial-chic, vaguely Parisian spot on the Lower East Side. Raw bar offerings include East Coast selections like Wellfleets, Moon Shoals, and Maine lobster, while French influences are obvious in larger plates like steak tartare and confit duck leg, all of which pair well with decadent cocktails like the champagne-based Lavender Piscine.

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13. Zadie's Oyster Room 413 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009 (East Village)

Marco Canora knows he's got prime restaurant real estate on 12th Street, which is probably why it seems like his two neighboring spots are always reinventing themselves. After Canora transformed the menu at East Village mainstay Hearth from heavy Italian to (relatively) health-centric, he focused his attention on the bar next door. Previously Fifty Paces wine bar, the space is now Zadie's, an oyster bar where you can order bi-valves baked, broiled, steamed, fried, pickled, poached, you get the idea. The menu also includes clams, shrimp, whitefish, and of course, a fine selection of wine, beer, and champagne.

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