New York

Before it was “The Big Apple,” New York City was known as, “The Big Oyster.” The lower Hudson estuary once contained nearly half of the world’s oyster population. Today, NYC probably hosts half the world’s oyster lovers.

New York City’s oyster scene is as vibrant and diverse as the metropolis itself. From high falutin seafood institutions to backyard oyster hideaways, epicurean oyster supper clubs to quick and dirty buck a shucks, this city has it all. Ironically, the abundance of oyster establishments happens to also be Gotham’s greatest weakness. Fickleness, abound and consistency, elusive. As a long time resident of this city and explorer of its oyster scene, here are my top selects…for now.

New York Oyster Map

Looking for more recommendations? Be sure to check out my New York Oyster Map, a beautifully designed piece that makes a great gift for any oyster lover. (Buy online)

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best places to eat

 

The John Dory Flatiron

What I Like About It: When New Yorkers do “whimsical,” I think of John Dory. The restaurant is colorful, energetic, and gives off a cool maritime vibe without feeling super cliche. When I want to slurp my bivalves in style, I do it here. Not to mention the rest of the menu is INSANE. The crudo is great. The bar snacks are super tasty. The parker butter rolls are exceptionally addictive. Oh right, back to oysters. They’re going to be fresh and delicious. The menu is a verbal one, so hopefully your server knows their slurps. Generally, they make it simple for oyster novices and value-seekers to have a great time. Half a dozen oysters (house’s choice) and a sparkling wine costs $18 during happy hour. Not bad at all!

What I Don’t Like About It: Freshness aside, the oysters on rotation are a little predictable. The variety doesn’t veer far from what’s “on trend” at the moment, making it a little challenging to be surprised — if you’ve slurped them all, that is. If you love your “genuine Bluepoints,” or those renegade Naked Cowboys, this is the place for you. As for me, I enjoy coming here with friends or business clients for a killer meal — but I don’t come here expecting to discover a new oyster.

 
  • Oyster variety: 6-8 East & West Coast

  • Ambiance: Chic, Upscale Casual, Playful

  • Oyster pricing: $3 per piece across the board

  • Perfect for: oyster happy hour, visiting oyster lovers, date night oysters

 
  • 9

    Oyster quality
  • 9

    Shucking quality
  • 8

    presentation
 
(212) 792-9000
 

Website

Map

 
 

Cull & Pistol Chelsea

What I Like About It: It’s the little details that make Cull & Pistol so likeable to me. From the personal oyster ordering slips that feature oyster flavor profiles to having the option of complimentary sparkling or still water, I feel like this is a place where they really set yourself up for slurping success. Tucked away in the center of Chelsea Market, right next to its sister seafood mecca, The Lobster Place (which also has a sweet little oyster bar, btw), this cool and contemporary seafood “shack,” is one of two oyster bars in Manhattan that offer their entire oyster menu on dollar special during certain weekday hours.

What I Don’t Like About It: The menu does lean East Coast heavy, and the West Coast options are never as good as the East. Although I’ve learned to just focus on building my East Coast repertoire here, it’s not the best place to go if you want a robust bi-coastal tasting.

 
  • Oyster variety: 12-24 East & West Coast, Canada

  • Ambiance: Contemporary, Upscale Casual

  • Oyster pricing: $2.25 - $3.75 per piece

  • Perfect for: trying new oysters, oyster happy hour, visiting oyster lovers

 
  • 8

    Oyster quality
  • 8

    Shucking quality
  • 8

    presentation
 
(212) 274-0505
 

Website

Map

 
 

Maison Premiere Williamsburg

What I Like About It: Maison Premiere oozes charisma from every crevice and corner. The place was designed to take you back to another time when oysters were king (oddly, not in New York City, but in New Orleans). Their oyster happy hour is legendary — every variety on the menu for a buck. When you’ve got over 30 varieties on hand, that’s quite attractive for an oyster explorer like myself. The servers are generally knowledgeable about the overall selection and are able to help guide oyster beginners through the process of ordering, tasting, savoring.

What I Don’t Like About It: Popularity can take its toll… mostly on the bar service and shucking time, less so on oyster quality. The potential 45 minute wait can also be a serious oyster buzz kill. My advice is get there early (like 3-3:30PM on a weekday, if possible) and try to nab a chair at the oyster bar in the back.

 
  • Oyster variety: 24-30 East Coast, West Coast, Canada

  • Ambiance: Neighborhoody, Old School, Classy

  • Oyster pricing: $2.25 - $3.50 per piece

  • Perfect for: oysters & cocktails, oyster happy hour, date night oysters

 
  • 8

    Oyster quality
  • 7

    Shucking quality
  • 7

    presentation
 
(347) 335-0446
 

Website

Map

 
 

Aquagrill Soho

What I Like About It: Perched at the edge of West SoHo, Aquagrill is both elegant and intimate. It’s client-friendly, parent-friendly, and date-worthy. I particularly like the long marble oyster bar, where a wall of fresh oysters are always on display. The corner seats at the bar are prime real-estate. You get a great view of the shucking action, but don’t expect them to chit chat. They’re super busy. All the time. But that’s fine, because they churn out beautifully shucked oysters, and they do it consistently. The menu is constantly on the shuffle, so there’s always at least a few new oysters to try.

What I Don’t Like About It: My biggest pet peeve about this otherwise superb place is seeing the gigantic tub of cocktail sauce, topped with a dollop of horseradish on every platter. For their average clientele, it’s probably fine. But to me, it’s counterintuitive to the quality that they so dearly uphold. Make the dish smaller or make it disappear entirely! You don’t need it!

 
  • Oyster variety: 24-30 East & West Coast, Canada

  • Ambiance: Neighborhoody, Romantic

  • Oyster pricing: $2.25 - $3.75 per piece

  • Perfect for: trying new oysters, oyster & wine pairings, date night oysters

 
  • 8

    Oyster quality
  • 9

    Shucking quality
  • 6

    presentation
 
(212) 274-0505
 

Website

Map