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SD Hounds - Who has the best oyster bar in town?

  • cgfan Oct 20, 2006 06:44 PM

To all SD Hounds...

I'm looking for the best oyster bar in town, by which I mean freshness/quality of product and selection variety. I've had my eyes on Oceanaire as a good possibility, though I never seem to be in the Gaslamp when both, 1) they happen to be open, and 2), I feel an oyster craving coming on. (They're a dinner only place...)

Any rec's? I'm game for anywhere in the SD metro area...

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  1. I enjoyed the oysters at the Fishery when we were in town last month. It's on Cass Street in Ocean Beach. Report back on your finds. I am always on the lookout for good oysters!

    5 Replies
    1. re: dimsumgirl

      Thanks for the rec, dimsumgirl. If you don't mind, do you recall what their selection was like? About how many different varieties they had, and from what waters were they sourced? Since I'm up in North County I'd like to establish a few things first before I make any runs to check out a new place...

      1. re: cgfan

        cgfan: I don't remember exactly how many different kinds there were. My best guess is maybe six? The Fishery is both a fish market and a restaurant so if you are so inclined, you could buy them and take them home to enjoy. They had kumamotos but since I buy those every weekend at the farmers' market, I passed on those. I was really excited that they have malpeques, one of my favorites, so I ordered a half dozen of those and they were beautifully presented and really cold like I like them.

        I have also had oysters at the Fish House on Harbor and remember them being fresh. They also had a few varieties and it seemed to me, you could get them to go from there as well. While the oysters were good there, I found the fish of much better quality at the Fishery.

        Please report back on your finds. I don't get to San Diego very often but oysters are among my favorite foods so I would like to know if you discover someplace that I must go when I get to that wonderful place!

      2. re: dimsumgirl

        Pacific Beach, not Ocean Beach

        1. re: Captain Jack

          Thanks CJ for correcting me. Here in NorCal any beach is a find. I hope the OP finds good oysters. Me, I would be so happy to get back to San Diego ever. But it might happen in January for me when I have a business trip to LA and might be able to swing a visit to daughter at UCSD!!

        2. re: dimsumgirl

          All well and good,however Cass St. is in Pacific Beach not OB.

        3. The branch of the chain, king's fish house in carlsbad has a pretty large selection and bar. Those that I had one time were top notch. There other food is sub-par inho.

          1. We tried King's Fish House in Mission Valley (same chain as Carlsbad) for oysters and thought they were pretty good. The waiter was pretty knowledgeable about them as well. They had about 6-7 different types when we went. Can't remember them all, but I remember Kumamotos being on the list.

            We've also had outstanding oysters at Arterra, although that was before Carl Schroeder left. Haven't had a chance to go back after he left.

            Jack's La Jolla also serves oysters, although the one time we had them, they were NOT cold and whoever shucked them didn't leave all the liquor in the shell.

            If you're ever in SF and at the Ferry Building, do NOT miss Hog Island Oyster Company! Easily the best oysters (and vinagrette) we've ever had1

            1 Reply
            1. re: daantaat

              I've had their oysters (Hog Island), but not at their site, which I imagine is as fresh as you can get... Love those Kumamotos too!

              So far it looks like there are two votes for King's.

              As to Arterra, do they do the oysters where they also do the "sushi"? I can't think of any other place there that might host such a bar. Though location is not too important, Arterra would be nice given that it's generally in my neck of the woods and they have pretty late hours.

            2. the oysters were available on the sit-down menu. I might add that it was one variety of oyster, not oyster(s). If you're wanting a variety, it might not do the trick. If you just want some good, plump, big oysters, they will do the trick. I could make a meal out of a dozen of them!

              Another place that is supposed to have any oyster bar is The Brigantine in Del Mar, near the race track. I haven't been but it might be worth a shot.

              1. "Captain Jack" has an amazing appetite for oysters and has reviewed a few oyster bars around town, including Blue Point, Oceanaire, The Fishery, The Fish Market: http://www.sandiegorestaurants.typepa...

                2 Replies
                1. re: Joseph

                  Very impressive reviews! I enjoyed reading them; thanks for the link!

                  Hopefully I'll be able to indulge in some of these suggestions soon. So far from the standpoint of selection, it sounds like The Fish Market and Oceanaire will be the ones to go to...

                  1. re: Joseph

                    Thanks for the love Joseph

                  2. Oceanaire hands down in terms of choice and service. Go when they have happy hour at the oyster bar. Its only from 5-6pm, M-F.

                    FYI: Just one thing to keep in mind too chowhounds....95% of anything caught from the sea and delivered fresh here to restaurants in SD comes from one company. So eating at Anthony's fish grotto and the Oceanaire are pretty much no different!
                    More than likely anything you order from one restaurant will not differ from another. This is in regards to the fresh fish or shellfish.
                    The 3 things that set them apart are: ambiance, service and preparation. Pricetag fluctiation is associated with all 3.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: vine2wine

                      soo true for 95% of the sushi bars too.

                    2. This is true, but it's a bit like saying every artist uses similar paint. Granted, quality ingredients are important, but if you hand the same paintset to twenty different artists, you'll get twenty very different results. Hopefully, anyway.

                      gn

                      1. Fish Market (at the Oyster bar), Blue Point and Fishery are all good, but now that Oceanaire finally has come to San Diego, we are blessed with our first true oyster bar. Oceanaire purchases their 15+ varietals directly from 2 handlers, cutting out a lot of middlemen and ensuring a lot of trust since they are such a large purchaser so you can feel confident in their oysters 12 mo./yr. They frequently have delights like skookums, umpquas and salutations, hama hamas, and quilcenes. However, its not a secret here so you may find the oyster bar 5 deep on a weekend - quicker to fly to Mpls or Dallas for oysters sometimes than to stand in the line!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jhlg

                          Wow, you've got a lot of good information there on Oceanaire's operation, jhlg! Thanks for your informative post. I guess my initial instincts were right about Oceanaire - overall it's sounding like the most promising place to go for S.D.

                          But thanks to all for your posts. Looks like there are a couple of backup places as well.

                        2. Lou and Mickey's in the Gaslamp hasn't been mentioned. I wouldn't go to Lou and Mickey's for anything but their oyster bar.

                          1. Shhhh - kind of a secret. The Fishery has oyster month in March, usually 8-12 diffrent varities, 1.50 a piece, plus beer and wine specials, every Tuesday in March.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: stevuchan

                              Sea Rocket has oyster specials every Tuesday. Only $1 per oyster from Carlsbad Aquafarms.

                              1. re: DougOLis

                                Have you had recently Doug? Last time I was in they were a nightmare, not on ice, not cold, not clean, meat was mangled. Mentioned to server, and they were removed and comped, but come on.

                                1. re: stevuchan

                                  I went a couple of weeks ago and it was fine

                              2. re: stevuchan

                                Really, 8-12 varieties? Wow, that must put it right up there selection-wise with Oceanaire and ahead of King's...

                                -----
                                Oceanaire
                                San DIego, CA, San DIego, CA

                                1. re: cgfan

                                  That was way back in '06, recent Oyster months have been about 5-8. No longer a secret either. Still worth going but you will have to wait till March. Call for case selection. Wonder how the BP mess will effect supplies? Poor gulf coast folks.

                                  1. re: stevuchan

                                    Probably not much -- most oyster varieties we see are from the Pacific or farther north in the Atlantic (think New England).

                                    1. re: hye

                                      I was assuming that the gulf folks would be eating oysters from elsewhere (Pacific/New England).

                                      1. re: stevuchan

                                        I think they have more pressing issues than where they will be getting oysters from...

                                        1. re: stevuchan

                                          Not yet, they still have about 70% of their oyster beds available...at least for now. And many of the restaurants (at least in New Orleans) will take oysters off menus rather than serve anything other than Gulf oysters.

                                          1. re: foodiechick

                                            I don't know if I've ever had Gulf Oysters. At least raw. What are their varietal's characteristics?

                                            1. re: deeznuts

                                              The best.

                                              1. re: deeznuts

                                                They're mild and soft all year long.

                                                1. re: deeznuts

                                                  Apalachicola oysters are mild, not too salty, plump and creamy but not sweet. Had some last week for the second time while travelling for work and they might be my favorite style. The oil's still not too close to that part of the coast so hopefully that maintains. The bar I went to was a dozen for $6; wish there was somewhere here that I could get that kind of deal for some of the best oysters around.

                                                  1. re: DougOLis

                                                    A couple of years back, you could get Gulf Coast Oysters (in season) at the Vietnamese Market at El Cajon Blvd and 54th (IIRC) for $30 per 100.

                                        2. re: cgfan

                                          I would put a lot of places ahead of King's (Carlsbad) now. The last time we were there the oysters were poorly shucked and relly had a bit of an off taste (not super fresh). We thought it was just an off day, howver we have not been back because the Fish Market in SB has never disappointed us. I read Naomi Wise's review of King's in the Reader a few weeks back, and the issue we had with King's may be a chain wide problem.