There’s something enchanting about oysters: They’re elegant, sexy and undeniably summery. Nothing embodies summer, like oysters and a glass of Chablis or rose. And just like wine, no two oysters taste alike: The flavors vary depending on season and which waters they’re from. Fortunately, New Yorkers have their pick of oysters from all over the world, including our own backyard. With last year’s fish shack trend, there’s never been more places to sample this year’s crop — everywhere from old school spots, like Grand Central Oyster Bar and excellent newcomers, like Marea and Marlow & Sons, serving up their own unique twist on the oyster.
Mermaid Oyster Bar
Address: 79 MacDougal St. btwm. Bleecker & Houston streets
Phone: (212) 260-0100
We’re fans of the first two Mermaid outposts, so we were excited when Mermaid Oyster Bar opened in the West Village. Like its siblings, the latest Mermaid offers high-end seafood in a laid-back atmosphere. The restaurant serves oysters from both coasts, most of which cost less than $3 each. Our favorites are the East Coast oysters, especially the Pemaquid from Maine, with a crisp, smooth texture. We’ll throw in a few Kumamoto’s just represent the West Coast too.
Pearl Oyster Bar
Address: 18 Cornelia St. bet. Bleecker & West Fourth Sts.
Phone: (212) 691-8211
New England may be home to a few of New York’s rival sports teams, but there’s no reason we can’t enjoy their cooking. And at Pearl, the New England seafood menu is as about good as it gets. The raw oysters, which come six to a plate, are exceedingly fresh, but don’t overlook Rebecca Charles’ fried oysters coated in an addictively crunchy batter. You can order them as an appetizer, or better yet, on a roll topped with tartar sauce with a side of shoestring fries.
Grand Central Oyster Bar
Address: 89 East 42nd St. at Third Avenue
Phone: (212) 490-6650
Tucked inside Grand Central Station, this dining institution evokes the spirit of Old New York, with its vaulted tile ceiling, checkered tablecloths and cafeteria-style tables. And the food is just as timeless. There’s raw oysters, fried oysters and even oysters Rockefeller, which are baked and loaded with cheese and butter. We highly recommend an order of oysters before you settle into a lobster roll or anything other seafaring option on the menu.
Address: 97 Sullivan St. bet. Prince and Spring Sts.
Phone: (212) 274-0404
There are eight Blue Ribbon outposts around the city, but when it comes to oysters, you’ll want to head to the Sullivan Street location. The oysters at this perpetually packed brasserie really are worth the wait for a table. While it’s hard to pass up an order of fried oysters, there’s a terrific raw bar with a great oyster selection too.
Address: 240 Central Park South bet. Broadway & Seventh Avenue
Phone: (212) 582-5100
This Italian seafood destination is nothing short of exceptional and their oysters are no exception. Michael White stays domestic, with oysters from Washington State and… New Brunswick, New Jersey. There’s six kinds to choose from, all perfectly complemented by a cucumber-lemon vinaigrette and a Morellino (red wine) mignonette — both much more interesting than your typical tartar and cocktail sauce.
Address: 142 Mercer St. bet. Prince & Houston streets
Phone: (212) 431-7676
This Soho seafood staple has much more going for it than its nautical décor. We could eat the fried oysters on the half shell all night, which might have something to do with the tartar sauce and julienned vegetable garnish. It’s one of those few dishes that’s just as attracting as delicious. Lure’s shellfish platters are also a good deal, considering the small, medium and large options all come with an assortment of oysters, shrimp, crab, claws and clams.
Address: 535 Third Ave. btwn. 35th & 36th streets
Phone: (212) 213-8552
This Murray Hill spot opened as a retail store, but the owners wisely decided to add a full-service bistro as well. The oyster bar offerings are excellent, especially the $15 platters, which are paired with wine and beer. You might want to take advantage of the crisp, clean-tasting Canadian oysters, which aren’t available on many menus in New York.
Address: 120 West 49th St. bet. Sixth & Seventh avenues
Phone: (212) 759-5941
Oceana’s new digs boast a casual, front-of-the-house café with an impressive raw bar. They offer six varieties of oysters and nearly as many accompanying sauces. Try the piquillo pepper aioli or the passion fruit vinaigrette. If you prefer the main dining room, we like the spiced & marinated oysters accented with cucumber and apple — a mix of salty, sweet and spicy flavors that does a number on your tongue.
Marlow & Sons
Address: 81 Broadway btwn. Berry Street & Wythe Avenue (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 384-1441
It’s nearly impossible to have a bad meal here at this Brooklyn favorite, an offshoot of Diner, located just next door. Ever since it opened, locals and foodies alike flock to this cozy spot for rustic, thoughtful and affordable cooking. Like the rest of the menu, the raw oysters are simple and delicious.
Address: 80 Spring St. btwn. Broadway & Crosby Street
Phone: (212) 343-1274
Restaurants don’t get much better than Balthazar. This romantic, perfectly weathered brasserie happens to serve perfectly classic French food. The only downside is just how difficult it is to get a table, even after thirteen years in business. I recommend grabbing a spot at the bar and passing your wait with a glass of Champagne and oysters.