Food & Drink

Six New Southern Oyster Bars

Six restaurants doing bivalves right

Photo: Rinne Allen

A dozen on the half shell at Seabear

From Alabama to Texas, inventive new dining spots are highlighting a different kind of harvest. The aquatic counterpart to farm-centric restaurants, which owe their popularity to a deepening desire among eaters to connect to the land, these oyster bars aim to showcase a diversity of merroir—the unique flavor characteristics oysters absorb from their individual environments.

5 Point Public House Oyster Bar
Birmingham, Alabama
Opened: 2015
On the menu: Oysters from the across the Southeast—Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Louisiana, and especially Alabama—served on the half-shell, baked in a wood-fired oven, and even fried in a sushi roll variation on Oysters Rockefeller.
Don’t leave without trying: One of the thirty-plus varieties of craft beer on offer, preferably while sitting at the tap table where pour-your-own spouts mean you can sample as many small-batch suds as you do oysters.—

Courtesy of 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar

Garbo’s Wine and Oyster Bar
Austin, Texas
Opened: 2015
On the menu: Imagine a Texas version of the New England seafood shack, with a traditional mix of northern oyster varieties married to native produce and ingredients. There are meaty Wellfleets from Cape Cod, slender and sweet Salvation Coves from Prince Edward Island, and smoky Beausoleils from New Brunswick. Can’t make it to the restaurant? Not to worry. Two food trucks rove throughout the city most days, serving up mainstays like lobster rolls two ways (on buns from local Sweetish Hill Bakery), clam chowder, and, of course, Cape Cod potato chips.
Don’t leave without trying: The oyster and wine study, which includes four pours paired with an assortment of “shucker’s choice” bivalves.—

Courtesy of Garbo’s Wine and Oyster Bar

701 Fish House & Oyster Bar
Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Opened: 2015
On the menu: Chesapeake Blue Points offered daily, plus a rotation of mixed offerings: Think Malpeques, Beaver Tails, Apalachicolas, and Olde Salts—all served with housemade cocktail sauce and Old Forester bourbon mignonette (this is Kentucky, after all). And since the restaurant is located about 30 minutes from Louisville, home to UPS’s worldwide hub, there’s also a regular influx of imports. The Coromandel New Zealand oysters are a current favorite.
Don’t leave without trying: The family-style sides, including Appalachian soup beans with pulled alligator rib meat. And for dessert: s’mores bread pudding with marshmallow meringue and a caramel glaze.—

(Photos courtesy of 701 Fish House & Oyster Bar)

Athens, Georgia
Opened: 2014
On the menu: A range of slurp-worthy oysters—there are usually six listed on any given day—that often include lesser-known varieties such as Wild Seasides from the Chesapeake Bay and Sweet Jesuses from Hollywood, Maryland. And coming soon, Seabear’s owners hope, Georgia oysters, which the state’s watermen are currently working hard to bring back.
Don’t leave without trying: A glass of appropriately nautical Fish House punch, made with Georgia-distilled Ivy Mountain peach brandy.—

Courtesy of Emily B. Hall / Seabear

The Curious Oyster Co.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Opened: 2015
On the menu: Master shuckers like 40-year veteran Johnny Boudreaux dish up a daily selection of local and domestic oysters at this St. Roch Market spot. Right now, there are about 13 to choose from, including Gulf favorites like Grand Isles, Murder Points, and Turtlebacks. To ensure quality and freshness, owner Melissa Martin relies on trusted local purveyors, such as Captain Johnny Smith Oyster Co (for Gulf varieties) and Inland Seafood (for Atlantic and Pacific offerings).
Don’t leave without trying: Martin’s grandmother’s tomato-oyster soup and an order of Bellegarde Bakery bread served with Steen’s-sweetened butter.—

Courtesy of the Curious Oyster Co.

Saltine Oyster Bar
Jackson, Mississippi
Opened: 2014
On the menu: At the raw bar, half-shell selects—sourced from the East, West, and Gulf coasts—come simply plated with a side of smoked pepper cocktail sauce and mignonette. For amped up flavor, try a half-dozen wood-fired oysters in one of three preparations: with Alabama white BBQ sauce; with a butter, citrus, shallot, and garlic dressing; or a la Lafitte, with crawfish tails, bacon, parmesan, and hot sauce butter.
Don’t leave without trying: The spicy but so delicious Nashville-style hot fried oysters, piled onto palate-cooling white bread with a side of pickles and the restaurant’s famous black pepper ranch.—

Courtesy of Saltine Oyster Bar