I’m of two minds about cheap oysters. These elegant, complex treats are a luxury, and should be savored and respected accordingly. The enjoyment of an oyster is often tied to price. Then again, sometimes you just want to gorge on the things alongside a few glasses of wine or porter, and not have to sell off your plasma to pay the resulting tab. Oysters are also perhaps the world’s best naturally occurring drinking food.
And in Seattle, with its proximity to many an oyster bed, the dollar oyster happy hour is our natural-given right. But before delving into the realm of cheap oysters, consider (groan) shelling out for Jon Rowley’s annual Walrus and Carpenter oyster picnic, a nocturnal celebration of cold, fresh oysters and copious amounts of wine.
If you want to dip below a dollar without the sketch factor, Seattle has three epic oyster happy hours. The first is Flying Fish. Every day from 4 to 6 you can find oysters for just 50 cents apiece at the bar. And if you happen to be available from 3 to 4 on a weekday, the lounge at Elliott’s Oyster House shucks fresh oysters for 75 cents apiece. Prices go up to $1.25 at 4 and $1.75 at 5.
Alas, the Westlake Whole Foods has put its monthly oyster happy hour on hold for the holidays. But prepare yourself for its triumphant return January 24, when Barron Point oysters run just 69 cents from 5 to 7 (the store does beer and wine specials too). A Whole Foods rep told me this crowd-inducing happy hour has also expanded to the Interbay location. The Westlake oysterfest happens on the second-to-last Tuesday of the month, but check the store calendar, Facebook page and such for more details on the Interbay version.
As for the dollar oyster happy hours, a few reliable bets include Blueacre Seafood, Belltown’s Local 360, Mistral Kitchen, and, of course, the oyster power hour at Ethan Stowell’s Anchovies and Olives (Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 6 and again from 10 to 11). Oysters cost a quarter more downtown at The Brooklyn’s daily happy hour.
For the first half of Walrus and the Carpenter’s happy hour (Sunday through Thursday, 4 to 6), oysters are half-price, then 25 percent off for the second half. You can find cheaper oysters, true, but braving the crowds here wins you the opportunity to compare oysters side by side, determining how one variety might be oversize and salty, another petite and metallic. All are delightful when accompanied by the bar’s oyster-friendly happy hour list of wine, beer and cocktails.
Taylor Shellfish Farms’ new store at Melrose Market
doesn’t do happy hour waives its shucking fee from 2 to 4pm, seven days a week. If you want to enjoy oysters at a reasonable price and get an education while doing it, there isn’t a better destination in the city. Survey the watery oyster tanks and choose a combination of different varieties. Whatever the market price, a quick shucking and a hit of mignonette and lemon regularly costs just $4 extra. Order several dozen and that cost goes down. Enjoy these with a glass of wine or a bottle of Pike beer, both options selected for their oyster simpatico.