Oyster bars in DC
- Jack H
My wife and I will be in DC in a few weeks--we love fresh" raw oysters! Any places in DC that fly in daily oysters from P.E.I., Washington (State). B.C., or Alaska?
Thanks in advance for the advice!
Arguably the best oysters are not from any of the areas you mention. Chincoteaque-which are hard to find even here-may be the most flavorful anywhere. I prefer them over all of the Pacific Northwest ones including Olympia. Prince Edward Island I have never seen anywhere on either coast. The best oyster bar in the D. C. area is probably the original Crisfield's on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. It has been celebrated by a number of celebrities ranging from Julia Child to Calvin Trilling who called it the "best fish house in America." It's probably not but for oysters and stuffed flounder in a formica and tile enviornment it is without peer and worth driving out from D. C. They also have Chincoteaques in season.
Southern oysters are generally not highly prized outside the region...something to do with the temperature of the water being too warm.
I am sure that the flavor of the oysters you got off the boat were enhanced by their freshness and the ambience...but, in my experience, you will generally not find Gulf of Mexico oysters on raw bar menus outside the South.
re: Jim Zurer
I've also eaten Appalachicolas at a raw bar in the main
terminal at O'Hare (I rate this my most pleasant layover in memory) which were as good or better than
anything that came out of Chesapeake Bay. Don't get me
wrong, I grew up in the DC area and spent a lot of time
on Kent Island where my girlfriend's family were all
watermen. Should've married her for that alone...
Anyway, most of those beds are done and I hear there is
actually a shortage of crabs (?!) up there. This is sad
and scary because you could always count on crabs if
there was nothing else. As for ambience, the best seafood dinner I ever had was a seven-pound spiny
lobster I plucked off the cooling intake screen at
the St. Lucie nuclear power plant in Ft. Pierce, FL.
We steamed it in a welding rod can and ate it in the
shadow of Reactor Unit #2. The priciest platter at Crisfield's couldn't compare. It's true, there are some years down here when conditions are unfavorable
for oysters (red tide, etc.) but when they're right,
they're really right. And, I agree--there's nothing
like getting 'em right out of the water.
My favorite oysters are those that come from New England and north.....for flavor and texture.
It is a shame about the Chesapeake Bay situation.....for both oysters and crabs.
My best memories of southern oyster dishes are ones that were fried--in New Orleans, South Carolina, etc. What I remember most about southern oysters on the half-shell is that the flavor was generally muted...that didn't keep me enjoying the seafood buffets in Atlanta when you could eat as many oysters as you could from the unlimited supply heaped on the table.
The best oysters I ever had also were eaten in Chicago--at the Blue Point Oyster Bar. I can't remember (to my chagrin) the type of oysters we had that day, but I still remember the taste. They were from New England.
I agree with you. Some of the best oysters I have had were from Prince Edward Island.
The place in DC with the best selection of oysters is the Old Ebbitt Grill (right near the White House) They try to have up to 10 varieties on hand most of the time.
If you have non-bivalve eaters in your group, the other menu items are outstanding as well.
I'll second both the Old Ebbitt Grill and the Oceanaire for excellent oysters. If you're in Old Town, I like getting oysters and a beer at the Union Street Public House. Sea Catch in Georgetown also has good oysters. I'm a fan of the Pacific Northwest too, but hey, I like 'em all.
Every November they have an event called the "Oyster Riot". It is one of the most enjoyable food and wine events I have ever been to.
They usually have between 20 and 30 different varieties of oysters on the half shell. They also pass around hot apps. like Stone crab claws, Oysters Rockefeller and shrimp. Cheese platters are scattered throughout the room.
A few weeks before the actual event, they have an oyster and wine competion. Several hundred wines and paired with oysters and the winners are picked. All of the wines that were judged are available to sample at the event. In addition to unlimited oysters, apps. and wine, they also offer unlimited Guinness and Harp for those that like to drink beer with their bivalves.
Although they usually have close to 1,000 people at the event, it always seems to run smoothly (esp. if you get there right as it starts). You may have to wait a bit as the evening progresses, but they overstaff so things really do move well.
The event is always the Friday before Thanksgiving, but be forewarned: The tickets go on sale in September and tend to go quickly.
For the last 2 years, the ticket price was $70.
A few weeks before the competition, they have a oyster and wine competion. Several hundered wines and paired with oysters and the winners are picked. All of the wines that were judged are available to sample at the event. In addition to unlimited oysters, apps. and wine, they also offer unlimted Guniness and Harp for those that like to drink beer with their bivalves.
Although they usually have close to 1,000 people at the event, it always seems to run smoothly (esp. if you get there right as it starts)
The event is always the Friday before Thanksgiving, but be forewarned: The tickets go on sale in Septemeber and tend to go quickly.
For the last 2 years, the ticket price was $70.
Sounds like some serious good fun! Do you have to dress
up? Down here in Ft. Pierce, FL we have a similar affair put on by the Fire Dept. All the oysters (Appa-
lachicola's), pit-roasted wild hog, beer and country
music you can stand for $20 a head. Bring your own screwdriver. A work-glove wouldn't hurt, either. It's
usually around St. Paddy's day, though not always.
One of the things that I like about the Ebbitt is that they handle all customers, from the slinky happy hour professionals to tourists in shorts, equally gracefully. I had friends in town who were dressed for sightseeing - very casually - and we had lunch there. Fit right in and the service was just as nice. I think they get a mix of tourists and well-dressed locals so they are just nice to everyone. While I don't know what appropriate attire is for the Oyster Riot, I can't imagine they set really high standards for their Oyster Happy Hour. I'm going to have to hope I remember to look up that Oyster Riot when September goes around...that sounds fabulous!