In our ongoing quest to conquer the Omnivore 100 list, we come to #28, Oysters. It’s hardly a chore for me to kick back several dozen oysters. My love affair with the bivalves began as a child watching my grandfather stir up some homemade oyster stew, mesmerized by the delicate edges curling up in the cream. At some point as a teenager I dared my first raw bar, and the salty brine was instantly addicting. I’ve never strayed, even after a disastrous food poisoning incident in New Orleans (on my birthday, no less). No, there really is nothing like the luscious oyster, and we’re lucky in DC to have plenty of places to enjoy them.
They say eating an oyster is like kissing the sea, or a mermaid. I don’t know about that, but I do know that slurping back a mineraly oyster freshly shucked off the shell is one of those things that divides people – either you can’t stand the thought or the taste of them raw, or you love them passionately. While perfectly fried oysters battered in cornmeal certainly ranks high on my list, it’s the ritual of the dozen (or three!) that I really enjoy. So here are my top DC raw bar experiences…
Hank’s Oyster Bar
Crowded with seafood lovers, this small restaurant manages to maintain quality and cheer amidst the noise. The oyster selection is ever-changing – check out the blackboard – and always pristine. Tops for slurping under the stars on the outside patio in the summer, and those averse to the raw oyster can enjoy them crispy in a po’boy.
1624 Q Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
You do not have the break the bank in the main dining room at The Oceanaire, just park yourself at the swank oyster bar and indulge. With a nightly selection that I think may have the most variety in the city, it’s a good place to do the “three dozen ritual” – first dozen, order two of everything, second dozen, narrow it down to two favorites, third dozen, just the one you like best. Stagger out seeing merpeople.
1201 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
Clyde’s Gallery Place
Three words: Oyster Happy Hour. Most of the Clyde’s restaurant group locations do an oyster happy hour, which these days is the best way to handle your addiction without breaking your savings account. With three bars at the Gallery Place location you can be assured of getting a spot – my favorite day is Sunday, but the happy hour runs Sunday through Thursday from 3pm-6pm and then again from 11pm-1am.
707 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
And finally, a word to the wise – the venerable Oyster Riot at the Old Ebbitt is in its thirteenth year. If you like watching your oysters being shucked by experienced hands, this is the event for you, with a mind-boggling variety and crazy people-watching to boot. Getting tickets is a near impossibility (it sells out within minutes) but worth a try every year – my last successful attempt was three years ago and a blast.
675 15th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
So I hope I’ve tempted you to get out there and slurp back a delicate raw oyster or two. Then you can come back and tell me whether it’s really like kissing the sea…