Nancy Leson | Restaurants
Heaven on a half-shell: An awe/shucks oyster-bar tour
When it comes to oysters, it's all about geography. So here's a geography lesson for you: The Pacific Northwest is heaven on a half-shell...
Seattle Times food writer
When it comes to oysters, it's all about geography. So here's a geography lesson for you: The Pacific Northwest is heaven on a half-shell. And heaven help me, I can't stop eating oysters: iced down, straight up, their precious liquor intact, hold the condiments. Here's a half-dozen oyster bars where you'll find me happily slurping the goods:
Ama Ama Oyster Bar & Grill
This West Seattle newbie's offbeat decor runs from zebra-striped upholstery to taxidermied wildlife. Ignore all that at the six-seat oyster bar, an oasis of visual elegance thanks to the tower of stacked stone built as an oyster back-bar. Here, I found a welcome intimacy, friendly service and the company of a charming shucker whose eagerness to enlighten me about his wares earned Ama a place on my oyster-slurping map.
A flute of cremant paired well with the "Chef's Choice" ($12), a half-dozen half-shells culled from the waters of British Columbia and our own Hood Canal. Served alongside, a delicate sake- and ginger-fueled mignonette made a great chaser.
Extra, extra: Three crunchy "chicken fried" oysters crowned a mushroomy mac & cheese ($8.50).
H'oyster Happy Hour: Chef's choice half-shells, 50 cents a pop (4-6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight).
Location: 4752 California Ave. S.W., Seattle; 206-937-1514; www.ama-amaseattle.com
Hours: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. nightly, dinner 5-10 p.m., late-night menu 10 p.m.-midnight.
The Brooklyn Seafood, Steak & Oyster House
The Brooklyn does a swell job re-creating a New York City chophouse, and its busy central bar — booze on one side, oysters on the other — is one of downtown's premier hubs for the après-work crowd. Pray for a seat at the copper-topped oyster bar and linger in the neon light that bathes those bodacious bivalves.
Order a baker's dozen (chef's choice, $23.99) or choose your own ($14.99/six, $26.99/dozen) from a daily oyster menu. Helpful tasting notes allow slurpers to divine which oyster provides a "sweet aftertaste" (Baywater Sweets) or a "mineral-like finish" (Westcott Bay Flats). The hot buy? Four oysters matched with four wines ($12.99), beers ($10.99) or vodkas ($12.99).
Extra, extra: The carpetbagger steak is a luscious luxury ($40.99), a fork-tender filet mignon stuffed with oysters, wrapped in bacon and served over creamy Gorgonzola potatoes.
H'oyster Happy Hour: 4-6:30 p.m. daily, a half-dozen oysters cost $4.99.
Location: 1212 Second Ave., Seattle, 206-224-7000, www.thebrooklyn.com
Hours: Oyster bar open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.- 10:30 p.m. Fridays; 3-10:30 p.m. Saturdays; 4-10 p.m. Sunday.
Chinook's at Salmon Bay
The view of Seattle's own fishing fleet at Fisherman's Terminal is as much of a thrill as the oysters, shucked by fellas doing double-duty tossing salads, scooping ice cream and otherwise churning and burning at this big bright oyster bar adjunct to this sprawling dockside restaurant. Munch on warm focaccia while perusing the day's "Galley Sheet," whose highlights, on a recent visit, included a short selection from Washington waters.
Beautifully shucked, an eight-oyster sampler ($14.95) arrived on a platter and pedestal (the better to examine the small flat shell of the Snow Creeks and see eye-to-eye with those meaty little Kumamotos). All went down well with the local brew — a pint of Fish Tale Puget Soundkeeper CWA.
Extra, extra: Deep-flavored Dungeness crab gumbo with rice ($4.95/cup).
H'oyster Happy Hour: Oyster shooters, $1.50 each from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Location: 1900 W. Nickerson, Suite 103 (Fisherman's Terminal), Seattle; 206-283-HOOK or www.anthonys.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays, 1:30-10 p.m. Sundays.
Elliott's Oyster House
Say hello to the granddaddy of Seattle's oyster bars — emphasis on the "grand." Freshened up after a recent remodel, this class act at Pier 56 is the ne plus ultra of slurpage. If there's a more diverse selection of oysters available in these parts, I've yet to find it, and few oyster bars take their mission to educate their customers more seriously. (Never slurped an oyster? First one's on them.)
With some two dozen species on display, delivered daily from throughout the Pacific Northwest, it's tough to choose. Leave it up to the pros, who expertly shuck a (spendy) varietal sampler ($19/six, $30/dozen). Show special interest in, say, the deep-cupped little Kusshi or the mighty meaty Virginica and another may magically appear.
Extra, extra: Oysters, baked with spinach, bacon and Pernod, shimmering with hollandaise sauce and rich as Rockefeller ($14).
H'oyster Happy Hour: A progressive happy hour starts at 3 p.m., Monday though Friday. Slurp 'em for 50 cents apiece, with price rising 20 cents every half-hour till the clock strikes 6. Such a deal!
Location: 1201 Alaskan Way, Pier 56, Seattle, 206-623-4340, www.elliottsoysterhouse.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays.
Call it a dive. Call it a bar. Call it a day sitting at the worn counter in this Pike Place Market joint, lifting a beer, lending an ear and knocking back some briny bivalves. If the game's on, you can watch it here.
As for those oysters, your choices are few — but who's complaining? — pulled from plastic tubs in the corner, shucked on the spot and served with cocktail sauce, a sprig of parsley and lemon. On a recent Saturday, I started a day of Market shopping right by sitting myself down and enjoying some Fanny Bays, Penn Cove Selects and Deer Creeks ($17.95/dozen).
Extra, extra: The "Oyster Bar Special": two oysters, three peel-and-eat shrimp and a cup of chowder, spicy shrimp soup (always my choice) or, come summer, chilled gazpacho ($8.50).
H'oyster Happy Hour: Ain't got none of that.
Location: 1916 Pike Place, #16, Seattle, 206-448-7721.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
The Oceanaire Seafood Room
Oceanaire's arc of an oyster bar greets you at the door, where a blackboard boasts the day's oyster offerings and the worldly seafood menu changes twice daily to accommodate the fresh catch. From this proud perch you can watch as multitower "Grand Shellfish Platters" ($40/$80) are assembled for other lucky souls.
But you're here for the oysters, and there's much to choose from. I met up with an iced-down round of stunners priced at $2 to $2.75 each, from near (Sisters Point on Hood Canal) and far-ish (Effinghams from B.C.'s Barkley Sound) — with representatives from many a "bay," "inlet" and "point" in between. I reveled in the vast visual and taste differences between a broad sea-scented Virginica (you haven't lived!) and the coppery goodness of a teensy, quarter-sized Olympia.
Extra, extra: Sweet barbecued pork sliders from the bar menu ($10).
H'oyster Happy Hour: Half-off half-shells weekdays from 4:30-6 p.m.
Location: 1700 Seventh Ave., Seattle, 206-267-2277, www.theoceanaire.com
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays, 5-11 p.m. Saturdays, 5-10 p.m. Sundays.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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