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Raw Oyster Virgin Seeks Affordable Sampling?

I'm just now starting to learn about raw oysters & their delight. Anyone have a good place to sample various kinds (local and farther afield), but not break the bank doing it. One dozen at Legal was almost $27 and I wonder if they can be had just as fresh for somewhat less dinero. Any ideas?

Suzie CK

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  1. It isn't cheap, but check B&G oysters in the South End.

    1. I guess my first choice for oysters is obvious and that would be Neptune Oyster. The prices are listed on the mirror and average $2.50 an oyster. That being said you can find a decent sampling of quality oysters at the Oyster Bar in Faneuil Hall for somewhat less.

      1. as you are just starting out i would suggest not being too concerned with price and more with quality and variety. you really don't want to skimp and take the chance of a less-than-pristine oyster ruining your day and then turning you off what might of been your favorite variety. once you get acquainted with all the different types then you can shop for bargains.

        that said, Neptune and B&G would be my picks. i would give the edge more to Neptune as last month i plowed through a couple dozen and every single one was opened with a skill that i have not seen locally for some time. not a mangled or dry oyster in the bunch.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ScubaSteve

          The ability to open an oyster properly is a great point. Many places will use a machine that does not have the inside in mind, just crack it open. You also want to look for somewhere that opens them to order, not sitting with a tap water moisted cloth on them. Or, as the typical chinese buffet does and rinses them.

        2. Start where is all began, Union Oyster House. Enjoy!

          1 Reply
          1. re: treb

            UOH is good but only at the downstairs raw bar. the oysters and clams that go to the DR are pre-opened.

          2. At that price, at least get better atmosphere, with equally good oysters, @ East Coast Grill (& Raw Bar). They always have a decent selection too. And good drinks.

            2 Replies
            1. re: franksnbeans

              I second East Coast. That is where I had my first oyster!!!

              1. re: franksnbeans

                i would suggest ECG also but i think that Neptune or B&G usually have a greater variety.

              2. Sounds like what you're hearing from the board is that you shouldn't expect to find good quality oysters on the cheap. I started my oyster-eating days in New Orleans, where the relatively mild Gulf oysters are ubiquitous for under $10 a dozen.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Blumie

                  Yeah, unfortunately, we have no local answer to Casamento's. Only plane tix to MSY.

                2. great bay (i believe, you may have to call), lineage and 28 degrees have a $1 oyster happy hour during the week before 7 or something like that. however, you won't have a variety of oysters, just one kind (usually island creek or wellfleet's) but those types are some of the best on the east coast IMO.

                  mckormick and schmick's also has a $1 oyster happy hour on tuesdays and thursdays (again, call or look on their website). they will have several varieties to choose from.

                  1. I have had many a fine oyster at most of the places recommended here. For some reason my all time favorite is at Caffe Bella in Randolph. They are from Duxbury and plump, properly shucked and the home made cocktail sauce is the best I have ever had.

                    No choices here though - just Duxbury delicious.

                    1. ... and then there's the oyster guy at the Davis Square farmer's market. Less than five months away!

                      1. My favorite local place is also Neptune Oyster, what's great about it is that there is a great variety and the quality is very good (bad quality oysters definitely to be avoided). You don't have to get a dozen, most places sell a half dozen, so you could get two of three different types for under $20. this makes for a nice light lunch or app. I'd also recommend getting west coast oysters, my general favorites, as well as east coast and maybe gulf. As you're new to oysters I'll add that I don't usually use the various sauces because the flavour of the oysters themselves is so good. ECG, B&G, McCormick & Schmicks, and even Legal Seafoods, are all good for oysters.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: steinpilz

                          B&G is my go to spot for oysters. They usually have I'd say around 8 types to choose from on any given day and you can get as many or as few as you want. I prefer the meaty east coast varieties to the typically smaller west coast ones but you'll have to try both to see what you like. Every now and again I add a few west coast ones into the mix but always find myself gravitating back to the east coast ones. I never eat them with cocktail sauce but rather with a small bit of mignonette. Enjoy!

                          1. re: steinpilz

                            I think first timers will have better luck trying them with a variety of sauces at first. I agree that the flavor of the oysters is great on its own but way back when I was first starting to eat them raw, I couldn't get them down without a little lemon or cocktail sauce.

                            1. re: joth68

                              Give 28 Degrees in the South End a try. I'm a huge fan of B&G and Neptune, but from 5 to 7 on weekdays, 28 Degrees sells Island Creek oysters from Duxbury for just a dollar apiece. The Island Creeks are briny, clean, and served ultra-fresh---a great first oyster for newbies, IMO. Plus you get three different dipping sauces, two mignonettes and some cocktail sauce.

                              I grew up in the South, where cocktail sauce is king. So I'll never develop a distaste for it. But I do like a well-composed mignonette....

                          2. Wherever you go, even if you go to Legal where the oysters are very, very good, put yourself in the hands of the counterman/woman and tell them you're trying out oysters for the first time and seeking the very best. I learned to love oysters at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station in NYC doing exactly that. I tried everything, a little bit at a time. Oyster crackers. Sauce. Lemon. West coast oysters, east coast oysters. Try them with wine, then try them with Guinness. Don't do any more than, say, two varieties per day. Believe me, the counter person will suggest new types to you every time you come in, and try to seek out the same person so they know where you've been and where you should go next.

                            I finally got to this: East Coast. (West Coast oysters are interesting, but they're not saline enough to be real oysters.) With a LITTLE mignionette sauce. Washed down with a very flinty savignon blanc, no oyster crackers. Wellfleets or Bluepoints --and my very favorites, Pemmiquid. I got so that I couldn't stand the thought of cooked oysters, and I used to LOVE deep fried oysters. I also don't like oyster pan roast or anything else that comes between my erster and me.

                            After a while, these delicate flavors will reveal themselves to you and you'll develop some heavy prejudices for or against one variety or another. You have a lovely journey before you and I predict you'll love the trip!

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: SSqwerty

                              Great advice from SSqwerty.

                              Just to balance with a plug for West Coat oysters, they have a beautifully creamy texture and fresh cucumber-reminiscent taste compared to the briny, right-outta-the-sea experience of the East Coast oysters. I love them both, and maybe East Coast oysters would be better for a first-timer. But don't rule out wonderful West-ers like Kumamoto, Gigamoto, and Fanny Bay!

                              1. re: wittlejosh

                                I agree with your West Coast comment and remember that the Fanny Bay and Fancy Gourmet were the very two that I sampled at my "oyster baptism." Definitely creamy if not buttery and another thing - the smaller size makes it less daunting for a first-timer. I wish there were an Oyster Riot here in Boston (like they hold at the Old Ebbit Grill in DC every October) - it is where you REALLY can indulge freely and get to know the wide variety of size, taste and "meroir" of so many delicious oysters . Maybe a local purveyor or restaurateur could answer the challenge!!?!!?

                              2. re: SSqwerty

                                I, too learned about oysters at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station - what a variety! I will admit that I also still love fried oysters. Perhaps, you can answer a question for me. You said that you stay away from "oyster pan roast". This has always interested me but I have never tried it. What, actually, is an oyster pan roast? Thanks

                                1. re: rockpile

                                  Usually a sauce base of worcestershire, clam juice or oyster liquor, some aromatics (celery, onions, shallots, etc.), and butter, sometimes white wine, simmered in a pan, then finished with heavy cream and shucked oysters (cooked very briefly).

                                  It's thick, creamy, a little spicy (usually chili sauce or pepper flakes), and perfect for sopping up with toast points or bread.

                                  I'm an oyster purist usually, but a well-executed pan roast can be dreamy.

                                  1. re: wittlejosh

                                    Thank you - it sounds wonderful. Now, where can I go for good oyster pan roast in Boston?

                                    1. re: rockpile

                                      You can't, really. Sometimes McCormick & Schmick has one. Gaslight has a chorizo-spiked version that's really awesome, but it includes cod, mussels, clams, AND oysters. Poelee Espagnol, it's called.

                              3. It doesn't get much love here on Chowhound, but I hit up Summer Shack in Back Bay before Christmas and I have to say that I think it does a few things really well, one of which is the oysters. There's an impressively extensive menu of varieties, well-shucked and reasonably priced in the $2-$2.75/per oyster range. It's not cheap, no, but I don't think you are going find much cheaper than that around here.

                                I also had no complaints about my Striped Bass and hubby liked his bluefish very much. After a bit of initial confusion, we were also able to get some Cape Cod Bay scallops simply broiled and they were just lovely. And the kids had fun over at the lobster tanks.

                                1 Reply
                                1. I say you should go to Neptune. The last time I was there they had twelve different oysters in their raw bar.

                                  Check out my review http://onefoodguy.blogspot.com/2007/0...

                                  1. 28degrees in the s.end has $1 oysters from 5-7 daily. mccormic & smick also has 2 oysters for $1.96 i think 3-6pm. they are good quality but not $2.25-$3 like other places.

                                    1. Kingfish Hall has a nice raw bar that offers a great variety of east coast and west coast oysters. I think east coast are 2.50 per, and west coast 3.50, but who really wants west coast oysters anyway. They always have like 5 or 6 different varieties of both east and west coasts.

                                      1. We took lots of good advice and plonked ourselves at the bar at Legal Seafoods at Charles Square, Cambridge, and asked the very friendly and funny bartender for their tasting dozen of 4 different kinds. They couldn't have been better, especially with a very flinty little Vouvray. I could take a pass on the Kumomotos, but the East Coasters were divine - even at $24-$26 for the adventure. A fine way to pass lunch with a like-minded friend and we'll definitely do it again. Each oyster was plump, fresher than fresh, and bursting with briny goodness. Oh my.

                                        1. I, too, prefer East Coast varieties, especially the Malpeque.
                                          I had my first oysters at Summer Shack and I've found their quality and variety to be excellent. Raw oysters and Guinness- YUM!
                                          Eastern Standard is excellent, as is Neptune. I just think Neptune is a bit overrated. The food is good, I'm just underwhelmed by the whole experience.
                                          I would agree that the main thing to look for is freshness. Bad oysters can put you off for life. Spend a little and go to a quality vendor until you feel comfortable with the product.