The Best Oyster Bars

Peter Frank Edwards
by Robb Walsh - Feb/March 2010

Here are a dozen of the best oyster bars in the South

Boss Oyster
Apalachicola, FL
The Frog Level Oyster Bar is the place to sit in the Boss Oyster restaurant located on a scenic waterfront deck on the banks of the Apalachicola River. The full-on seafood restaurant is actually part of a hotel called the Apalachicola River Inn. Along with oysters on the half shell, you can get oysters cooked with a dizzying array of toppings including bacon, asparagus, artichokes, and jalapeños. Or you can make up your own combinations. 850-653-8139;

Papa Joe’s
Apalachicola, FL
When you walk in the front door of this neighborhood joint, you may think you’ve entered a dark bar rather than a waterfront seafood eatery, precisely because you have. Papa Joe’s is a great local bar with oysters, rather than a purist’s oyster bar. If you want fresh air, go sit outside on the screened porch—with the smokers. If you want oysters on the half shell, tell the shucker all about it. And if you want baked oysters, there are eleven kinds to choose from. 850-653-1189;

Gibson Inn
Apalachicola, FL
Sit on a captain’s stool at the wooden bar, or at one of a half dozen white-linen-covered tables, or take your oysters and beverages out on the porch. The bar at the Gibson Inn is an elegant place to eat oysters and a sentimental favorite for Floridian history lovers. The bar and restaurant are located on the ground floor of a gorgeous Victorian mansion (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) surrounded by expansive wraparound porches. 850-653-2191;

Indian Pass Raw Bar
Port St. Joe, FL
Fresh oysters, cold beer, and live music make Indian Pass Raw Bar a beloved local institution. The oyster bar occupies a structure built in 1903 as a commissary for the local turpentine business in this old lumber town. Owner Jim McNeill’s grandma, Gypsie McNeill, cooked lunch in the commissary back in the 1930s. The oyster bar got started in the 1980s, when Hurricane Kate destroyed the family’s wholesale oyster operation. Instead of trying to revive the business, the McNeills decided to sell the oysters they caught at retail and opened the oyster bar. The oysters are usually served the same day they are caught. They are available raw, baked, gratinéed, or steamed—but never fried. 850-227-1670;