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Best Oyster Bar in Durham/Chapel Hill area

I found a thread on oysters, but the last post to it was over 2 years ago. I figured it was time for a new one.

I was wondering if there are any decent oyster bars in the Durham/Chapel Hill area. I prefer the dives that I'm used to back in Florida - pitchers of beer, pool tables, chicken wings, and oysters on the half shell. I'll take what I can get, however, as I'm assuming most Cackalackian establishments serving oysters are not of the "dive" variety.

Thanks!

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  1. I'm pretty sure a good oyster bar doesn't really exist in the Triangle, at least in Durham or CHill. I would love to proven otherwise.

    5 Replies
    1. re: BryanZ

      Isn't there a place called Shuckers - up Capital Blvd almost to Wake Forest on the left? Seems like it's supposed to be like one of those Florida ones SenorSuarez describes. But I've never been there...

      1. re: cackalackie

        http://www.shuckersoysterbar.com/Shuc...

        Hrm, yeah this one looks promising. 40 minute drive is a little far though... any other suggestions?

        1. re: cackalackie

          Actually... I've been heading out in that direction lately for some diving in a quarry near Wake Forest. I'd be interested in stopping by this place next time I'm out that way.

          Has anyone been here? Is it good? The "Steamboat" combination platter sounds right up my alley...

          1. re: SenorSuarez

            Shucker's is awesome. The owner's have been there for 20+ years. Seafood is ok but the oysters are great as is the casual country service.

            1. re: micajack

              I tried them out and got their steamer platter (shrimp, oysters, crab, etc.). I found it to be OK. The oysters were a little muddy and the shrimp were somewhat overcooked. The atmosphere was perfect for me though and the staff was very friendly. I enjoyed sitting at the bar, watching football, and eating. I'll probably give it another try next time I'm in the area.

      2. In Chapel Hill, go to Squids. From 4-7 PM each day they have happy hour special on oysters for ~$5/dozen, as long as you get it in the bar or patio areas. In Durham, Fishmongers is a real divey joint-- not like a FL dive but more like a New England dive. Their happy hour special on oysters are only on Friday afternoons, also around $5/dozen.

        12 Replies
        1. re: bbqme

          Wow, really??? I've always sort of passed on the chance of going to Squids, but this might just get me in the door. Thanks for the tip.

          1. re: LulusMom

            no doubt, that's a great price! how are the oysters there?

            1. re: SenorSuarez

              Not sure this is a good time of the year to judge oyster quality.

              1. re: bbqme

                There was just a NYT article about the "months only with 'r'" rule and how with today's cultivated deep water oysters it's not so much a big deal. I feel like most people can't tell the difference. In central NC I feel like freshness is what you should be looking for more than anything else.

              2. re: SenorSuarez

                they are decent, I've been to squid's and taken advantage of this deal in all seasons. Decent quality; they make a good bloody mary as well. I would also recommend the 82nd st. oyster bar in raleigh. Not at al divey, but you can get great raw or steamed by the peck with a few friends...it's a good time.

            2. re: bbqme

              I've enjoyed Fishmongers over the years. Both the steamed and raw oysters are great. They dump them on the table along with an oyster knife so you can open them yourself. I'd have to call it a dive unless they have remodeled recently.

              1. re: blewgo

                I second Fishmongers in Durham. It also has a great dive atmosphere

                1. re: blewgo

                  I too have never had a bad meal at Fishmonger's after eating there 50+ times. I think a lot of people are spooked when you put the word "dive" together with seafood. They immediately assume that the food is not kept in sanitary conditions or that it is of lesser quality. There is nothing farther from the truth. In fact, if you spend much time traveling the world's coasts and eating where the locals do, you usually end up in places very similar to Fishmonger's. It's not sophisticated, but it's usually very fresh, and usually simply prepared. Especially the oysters.

                  1. re: blewgo

                    I'll give my vote for fishmongers as well.... no frills, good food, fresh.

                    we always take my in-laws there for their oyster fix. They are originally from Mass, and now in AZ, and they get desperate for east coast oysters.

                    and having spent all my summers on the jersey coast, and years in Miami, i crave steamers, and crabs...both of which i've happily depended on Fishmongers for the last 4 years...

                    1. re: TSQ75

                      I went to Fishmongers and had a great experience. I had their steamer platter (shrimp, snow crab, clams, etc.) and it was yummy. The snow crab was cooked perfectly and was honestly some of the best I've ever had. The shrimp were a little overdone, but the crab more than made up for it.

                      I came on a Wednesday, however, and they told me their oysters arrive on Thursdays only. So naturally I avoided the oysters. I also noticed that they sell oysters for cheap on Thursdays... does anyone know if they do this to get rid of last week's stock or if they serve the fresh ones on Thursdays?

                      1. re: SenorSuarez

                        in my experience, thursday oysters are GOOD and cheap. :)

                    2. re: blewgo

                      ...they have them already shucked as well...lol

                  2. Yes, Squids and Fishmongers! I've avoided Squids since I moved to Chapel Hill because I was frightened by the roadside-family-restaurant-with-event-hall look. But a friend pressed me into going on Friday and I was delighted. The oysters were great, the staff was lovely, and even though it was packed there was room at the bar where they serve the whole menu -- which we never got to, by the way, having too much fun with oysters, hush puppies, peel-n-eat shrimp and bloody marys.

                    I like Fishmongers too, for the same reasons others have said: divey, buckets o' beer, etc.

                    1. I think batdown means the 42nd Street Oyster Bar in downtown Raleigh. We eat there all the time. Very casual, they have live music Thurs-Sat at 9pm, 42nd St. Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill 508 W Jones St Raleigh, NC 27603 (919) 831-2811 (they dont seem to have a website). In Chapel Hill, if you dont mind being surrounded by students and squeezing into a small but nice place, try East End Martini Bar 201 E Franklin St (Cross Street: Henderson Street) Chapel Hill, NC 27514 (919) 929-0024. No website, but look it up on Citysearch for directions. Martinis and oysters. Thats pretty much it. Live music on weekends, DJ other times. Say hi to Myles Bacon, best DJ ever!

                      1. Blu has what I consider the best oysters in Durham right now. Not cheap, but always fresh on the two instances I've had them. I also appreciate how they actually know what they're serving rather than simply serving "oysters." $2.50/piece is expensive for this area, however.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: BryanZ

                          Agreed. Went to Blu for the first time last week and the oysters were fantastic. When I crave oysters on the half shell, this is where I'm going to go.

                          1. re: Sarah Jane

                            Try Nelson's in Cameron Village in Raleigh. Get the Stump Sound Oysters. Very salty.

                          2. re: hungryphillip

                            I've been back in Durham for about an hour--unpacked my computer, logged onto CH-- and I've just come from eating a dozen and a half oysters at Blu after reading the above post.

                            Blue points (cold water oysters) are $7.50 for six, $13 for 12. Gulf oysters are $4.50 for six, $8 for 12. I had a dozen blue points and a half dozen warm water oysters. Quite pleased with the quality, well shucked. I still feel that the mignonette at Blu is weak, however. Blue points were creamier and brinier. Gulf oysters definitely meatier and more hearty.

                            1. re: BryanZ

                              Speaking of mignonette, I hate the stuff. No disparagement to the many many people who consider it the only way to enjoy a raw oyster. But for me, it's gotta be just the smallest touch of real grated horseradish and a small dab of cocktail sauce. Not enough to mask the oyster's flavor, just enough to give it a little zing and zip. I'm always depressed when the restaurant tells me that they only have mignonette available. So if this thread keeps going with new entries, perhaps the reviewers can make a quick note of what condiments the eatery serves with their oysters. Thanks!

                              1. re: BryanZ

                                Went back to Blu for oysters tonight. Same pricing, but the cool water oysters were beau soleil(s?). I love beau soleil oysters and was very pleased with these. In the end I got a dozen of the cheaper Gulfs and a half dozen of the beau soleil. Also had a glass of perfectly serviceable cava for $4. At these prices you really can't go wrong.

                                Tuesday night they also have a lot of boutique beers (Ephemere, Brooklyn) for $3. And every night from 5-7pm apps and salads are $5. I know I sound like a shill, but you can pick up a great 3 course meal with a drink for less than $20 before tax/tip.

                                I think this will be my Tuesday spot.

                                1. re: BryanZ

                                  A couple weeks back Blu had Gruet sparkling rose for like $4.50 glass. Good stuff. Look for it. I will be.

                                  Went back tonight for kumamotos. How can you say no to kumamotos for $13/dozen? Overall these kumamotos were perhaps B/B+ quality, but even B-level kumamotos beat out most all other oysters. They were very fresh, but some of them were a bit languid and lacked that quintessential kumamoto firm, plumpness. Gulfs were solid and a great value as always. The staff graciously accommodated when I moved from the bar to a table when I unexpectedly met up with some friends and transferred my check accordingly.

                                2. re: BryanZ

                                  anythoughts on where to go for kumamoto, malpeque, blue point, belons, hog island, price edward island?

                              2. Nelsons is about as far from a dive as one can get. True, they have toned their menu and prices down considerably from when they first opened but they are DEFINITELY not a "pitchers of beer, pool tables and wings" kind of place. The most downscale you will ever see the place is Thursday nights when they are invaded by barely-21 frat boys and sorostitutes.

                                Shuckers on Capital Blvd, downscale, probably what the OP is looking for. Unfortunately nowhere near Chapel Hill.

                                Sunny Side Oyster Bar Too in Garner, also very downscale. I dont recommend...nothing like the one at the beach.

                                Hudsons Oyster Bar and Grille in the old Gino Russos location, meh. Kinda middle of the road, hopefully they are getting the kinks worked out after having been open almost a year.

                                42nd Street Oyster Bar, also meh. Very overpriced, but good beer selection and its fun to sit at the oyster bar and have a few dozen.

                                The state of shellfish in Raleigh is very disappointing to me, as someone who grew up in MD where crab and oysters were king.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Melusina54

                                  The original Sunny Side Oyster Bar is not at the beach - it is in Williamston, NC - about 100 miles from Nags Head and probably about the same to Atlantic Beach.

                                  I have not been to Sunny Side in Garner, but have heard good things about it.

                                  1. re: Jeanne

                                    The original Sunnyside is excellent. We went to their place in Garner on Saturday night and the oysters were very good. Worth a stop if you don't want to drive all the way to Williamston.

                                2. Visited Squid's for the first time in mid-September--they had an oyster special during happy hour-- I think it was 50 cents apiece or something similar. Had 37 oysters, a couple bowls of chowder and several beers--dollar for dollar, it was one of the most satisfying Chowhoundy places I visited in a long time. And I still had some room left.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: KyMikey

                                    KyMikey - what kind of oysters?

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      For the price, I can only assume they're Gulf Oysters, but I'm no expert. I've been there a few times since it was recommended on this thread. I found them to be quite good; they weren't muddy at all. My brother-in-law and myself put away 2 dozen raw and 2 dozen steamed. They claim to get them fresh every day. I'll make sure to ask next time where they get them from. Thanks again Chowhounders!

                                      1. re: SenorSuarez

                                        Can't beat those Gulf oysters for price. While visiting Tallahassee, FL I met up with friends at the coast and shared a bushel of oysters with them, just brought in from the boats. Cost? $27!

                                        1. re: SenorSuarez

                                          Thanks SS - you've answered not only my posted question, but also the subtext. I normally shy away from gulf oysters since they can sometimes be fairly muddy, but it is worth checking out at that price and if you say that wasn't the case.

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            I think it largely depends on the shipment and the season. They said something along the lines of "The ones we've been getting have been really good lately", so I'm guessing at other times they aren't as good. They've been good the few time I've been there though.

                                            1. re: SenorSuarez

                                              plus the shells are returned to NC beds to help further cultivation.

                                              1. re: tommio

                                                this is one of the "side benefits" that I am pleased with at Squids, along with the "no corkage fee" for the wines we bring, since we tend to bring wines that are . .. .of a higher price point or different varietal ... than what they have on their menu.

                                                Ultimately, it's about the food, but "extras" count double for when considering how often they hit our rotation.

                                                I really miss their fresh seafood market, but Tom Robinson's is still acceptable, and last I checked I can still make special orders at Squids for when I know I want something special to cook at home.

                                        2. re: LulusMom

                                          Sorry, didn't mean to ignore you--have only been eating oysters for 4-5 years and I haven't the foggiest what are the usual type that you get at these places for less than a buck apiece, but that's the type they were--one was unshucked, so i got a bonus with the third dozen.

                                      2. Blu has great oysters and great everthing esle. I had dinner there last week and it was fabulous. There were two of us and we did 2 appetizers, 2 entrees and 2 drinks all for under $100 including tip. They have a daily happy hour with $5 appetizers and do an oyster event on Tuesday. I am SO happy to have a great seafood place in Durham.

                                        I ate at Fishmongers once and hated it. The fish was ok but the sides, plain white rice and over cooked pea pods were very lacking. I was not impressed by the oysters either :(

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: halfgreen

                                          Blu will special order your favorite oysters for serving you in the next day or two. Same for fish from as far away as Hawaii, Greece, Europe, and Florida where the chef learned about the fish and oysters he's now serving.