A Guide to Seattle’s Oyster Bars
A primer on the establishments dedicated to Seattle’s heroes on a half shell.
1700 Seventh Ave, Downtown, 206-659-0737; blueacreseafood.com
Fresh Sheet Twelve impeccably sourced varieties from up and down the state
Bar Method The curved stainless-steel-topped bar with its accompanying cascades of ice provides one of the most elegant oyster-eating experiences in town.
The View Shuckers hard at work behind that frozen, shell-studded slope
Who’s Here Convention goers, people of business
Claim to Fame Owner and seafood guru Kevin Davis spent five years running the kitchen when this space was Oceanaire, returning to open his own place when the Minneapolis-based chain filed for bankruptcy.
Wash Them Down with A classic vodka martini
Happy Hour Those carefully sourced oysters are just a buck from 3 to 6pm and all day Saturday and Sunday.
The Brooklyn Seafood, Steak, and Oyster House
1212 Second Ave, Downtown, 206-224-7000; thebrooklyn.com
Fresh Sheet An impressive array of about 12 (and never fewer than five) varieties from smaller farms along the upper West Coast
Bar Method Shuckers do their thing behind the circular bar that dominates the front room. Sit here if you can.
The View Squint and the hotel-beige room resembles a clubby East Coast oyster house.
Who’s Here An after-work and before symphony-crowd. All ordering oysters.
Claim to Fame Not exactly fame inducing, but one couple met here on their first date, married, and later started an oyster farm. Yes, the Brooklyn carries their Treasure Cove oysters.
Wash Them Down With If you’ve got your party pants on, the four-pour vodka sampler that’s paired with oysters and caviar. If you’re hoping to remember the rest of the night, ask for the oyster-paired flights of either white wine or beer.
Happy Hour Freshly shucked oysters are $1.50 from 4 to 6pm (3 to 6 on Saturdays); chef Blair King does so much business with one oyster farmer that he even has an oyster from north Dabob Bay, the King’s Gold, named in his honor.
Fresh Sheet Owner Jeremy Hardy began with five, but now offers about eight types a day, from Puget Sound suppliers Taylor Shellfish Farms and Hama Hama.
Bar Method A remodel last fall added a bar-type bar and an oyster-type bar with a curved marble-topped counter and wire baskets of bivalves that await your shucking orders.
The View The kitchen hard at work.
Who’s Here A growing evening population, but brunch is still the main draw
Claim to Fame The staff records goofy fake language courses that play in the bathroom.
Wash Them Down with A good oyster wine, aka one that’s high in acid, low in sugar, and not too floral. Hardy likes the Umpqua Valley Brandborg Gewürztraminer on the menu.
Happy Hour Here, oysters are drunk food. They’re $1.25 between 10 and midnight.
Elliott’s Oyster House
1201 Alaskan Way, Waterfront, 206-623-4340; elliottsoysterhouse.com
Fresh Sheet Each day brings a new bill of oysters, sorted by variety and listed by oyster farm name. If choosing from among 44 options proves mind boggling, the servers have your back. Don’t miss the iced Champagne-and-black-pepper mignonette.
Bar Method The row of seats facing a two-tiered array of iced oyster bins is essentially oyster heaven. The new sibling establishment out front, Cafe 56, has a much smaller selection, but that sidewalk-facing oyster bar will be packed come summer.
The View Ferries, tour boats, and the Great Seattle Wheel—about as waterfront as you can get.
Who’s Here Visiting Midwesterners commingling with hardcore oyster aficionados
Claim to Fame The annual Oyster New Year celebration, wherein the state’s growers herald the return of prime oyster season by feeding revelers an insane amount of oysters, thus raising money for the Puget Sound Restoration Fund
Wash Them Down with One of the three oyster-friendly (read: acidic and not overly aromatic) white wines listed just above the day’s oyster selection. Elliott’s operations director Tom Arthur judges 150 wines in a six-day span for an annual oyster wine competition, so you can probably trust his judgment.
Happy Hour Make it here at 3pm on a weekday and oysters are just 75 cents. At the stroke of four the price goes up to $1.25, then $1.75 from 5 to 6.
Fresh Sheet The menu, written on the back of a paper bag, just says “Raw Oysters.” Usually it’s six kinds a day from farms around Washington. Reasonable expectations for garnish include a plate, a lemon wedge, and a wee plastic thimble of cocktail sauce. Maybe parsley if you’re lucky.
Bar Method A high temple of seafood it’s not, but there’s a certain charm to those foggy-blue wooden booths and checkered plastic tablecloths.
The View The ghosts of old-school oyster lovers past. Also, a sweet little courtyard in the heart of the Market.
Who’s Here Droves of tourists during prime time; a few loyal TV-watchers during off hours
Claim to Fame The bar was founded by (and named for) a local baseball player turned Seattle newspaperman.
Wash Them Down with Whatever’s cheap
Happy Hour “Every hour is happy hour at Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar!” Which means…no happy hour.
F. X. McRory’s
419 Occidental Ave S, Pioneer Square, 206-623-4800; fxmcrorys.com
Fresh Sheet About nine daily varieties from farms in Washington and British Columbia
Bar Method Back in 1977, owner Mick McHugh fashioned a stand-up oyster bar, like the classics in Boston and New York. But patrons said they preferred to sit at tables. Now a six-foot square saltwater tank, designed with advice from the Seattle Aquarium, houses oysters in the basement.
The View A stream of NFL banners; whatever’s on TV
Who’s Here A giant crowd before sporting events
Claim to Fame Conan O’Brien unexpectedly crashed the Irish Heritage Club of Seattle’s annual luncheon here in 2009 when he was in town promoting his short-lived Tonight Show takeover.
Wash Them Down with It may not go well with oysters, but can you really ignore the wall of more than 1,000 bottles of whiskey, bourbon, and scotch?
Happy Hour Three oysters on the half shell can be yours for a mere $3.50 between 3 and 5:45 on weekdays.
Seatown Seabar and Rotisserie
2010 Western Ave, Pike Place Market, 206-436-0390; tomdouglas.com
Fresh Sheet Usually six and never fewer than three types from Penn Cove Shellfish oyster beds around Puget Sound and British Columbia.
Bar Method The red granite-topped bar takes up about half the room, but the oysters are arrayed in orderly, iced rows in the case at one end. They’re served with a bruleed lemon half; a squeeze over your oysters really sweet-tarts up the proceedings.
The View Pike Place Market, Victor Steinbrueck Park, Elliott Bay, and the resultant bonanza of people watching
Who’s Here Lots of out-of-towners, but somehow it still doesn’t feel touristy.
Claim to Fame Tom Douglas moved into this space to help ward off the shady activity in the park, and gave Seattle some killer outdoor seating in the process.
Wash Them Down with A local porter—namely Schooner Exact’s Profanity Hill—is a classic oyster companion.
Happy Hour Oysters are $1.50 each—a buck off—weekdays from 4 to 6.
411 University St, Downtown, 206-621-1984; fairmont.com
Fresh Sheet As many as eight oyster varieties, served raw or in one of the old-school house preparations (casino, Provencale, pan fried, etc.)
Bar Method Shells on a snowy pile of ice are the first things you see when you walk in the hotel entrance.
The View Lavish paneling; carved wood; ornate, old-school chandeliers
Who’s Here Hotel guests (it’s located in the Fairmont), business lunchers, and special-occasion diners on an outing with grandmama
Claim to Fame It’s probably the only haberdashery turned oyster bar in town.
Wash Them Down with Do the Parmesan crisps at the bar count?
Happy Hour A few varieties are $1.50 apiece from 3 to 5 on weekdays.
Taylor Shellfish Farms
1521 Melrose Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-501-4321; taylormelrose.com
Fresh Sheet Kumamotos, Olympias, Pacifics, Shigokus, and Virginicas, delivered to this cheery shellfish market seven days a week from the company’s own oyster beds
Bar Method Oysters sit submerged in their watery tanks in the center of the shop until you point out which ones you want shucked. Then it’s off to the no-frills round tables to await your platter.
The View Maps of oyster-growing regions; tanks of Dungeness crabs
Who’s Here The type of person who knows what to do with a live geoduck.
Claim to Fame Taylor employee David Leck won a big-deal national oyster shucking championship in Boston last year.
Wash Them Down with The selection of beer and wine is small, but every single one is here because it complements the shellfish.
Happy Hour The $4 shucking fee is waived Monday to Friday, 2 to 4.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
4743 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-395-9227; thewalrusbar.com
Fresh Sheet Chef Renee Erickson’s longstanding relationships with oyster farmers mean you’ll see as many as 12 varieties served each night. Those beautifully composed iced platters mostly bear the briny fruits of Puget Sound, Hood Canal, the San Juans, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Bar Method Dedicated shucker Anthony Pane helms the semicircle of oversize wire baskets filled with oysters, the nerve center of the compact open kitchen.
The View Depending on where you sit, Ethan Stowell’s conjoined Staple and Fancy or the enormous chandelier, a 1950s nod to white coral
Who’s Here Anyone dedicated (or early) enough to brave (or beat) the typical two-hour wait for
Claim to Fame Lavish praise from pretty much every visiting food writer in the universe
Wash Them Down with Bartender Anna Wallace’s Death in the Evening, made with oyster-friendly components like Champagne, vodka, and lime…with a splash of pastis.
Happy Hour Lingering outside when doors open at 4 is highly advisable to partake in the hour of half-priced oysters Sunday through Thursday. They’re 25 percent off for an additional hour, from 5 to 6.
Published: February 2013