13 of Our Favorite Oyster Bars

There’s no better time of year for Seattle’s beloved briny bivalve.

By Kathryn Robinson November 22, 2016 Published in the December 2016 issue of Seattle Met

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Oysters of the day at the Walrus and Carpenter.

Image: Olivia Brent

Aqua by El Gaucho

Don’t hate her because she’s beautiful. This sprawling, window-walled sensation at the tip of Pier 70 features cruise-ship vistas of Elliott Bay, along with an interior view—shiny exhibition kitchen, shiny copper light fixtures, shiny gorgeous people—to rival them. All brought to you by the same folks behind bet-a-million local steak house chain, El Gaucho. So: piano bar, check; $82 plate of fillet and lobster tail, check. Asian-tweaked fish treatments can hold more culinary intrigue but have proven inconsistent in the execution realm. Still, the plus column is far from empty, featuring a good rotating list of oysters, surprisingly substantive cocktails, a warm-weather patio for sunset loveliness, and Seattle’s most dazzling glass-enclosed private room at the end of the pier. 2801 Alaskan Way, Pier 70, Belltown, 206-956-9171; $$$$ 

Bar Melusine

Seattle seafood legend Renee Erickson has reprised her Ballard oyster bar, the Walrus and the Carpenter, in this breezy Capitol Hill bar splashed with sprays of seafoam green and constructed as homage to the shores of Normandy and Brittany. Thus a bowl of manila clams may arrive with tarragon and rings of shallot, halibut crudo might be brightened with pickled cucumber and fresh rhubarb, brined and smoked leg of lamb may be served with the French egg sauce known as sauce gribiche—all in addition to the half dozen fresh oysters daily. If Melusine’s innovations are tamer than Walrus’s, they are no less satisfying—and they also include more meat. (Little surprise, here alongside Erickson’s French steak house, Bateau.) 1060 E Union St, Capitol Hill, 206-900-8808; $$ 

Blueacre Seafood

This huge bilevel space, midconventionville, keeps tourists and business visitors in a dazzling indecision of seafood, local and far flung. Execution and service can both suffer in this industrial kitchen, but simpler dishes are better and the chef, who hails from the South, tweaks frequently in the direction of Nawlins. Side dishes are steak house huge. 1700 Seventh Ave, Downtown, 206-659-0737; $$$

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Oysters Casbarian at BlueAcre, with apple smoked bacon, wilted spinach, fennel, and anise.

Image: BlueAcre

The Brooklyn Seafood, Steak and Oyster House

It’s mostly an after-work and before-symphony crowd filling the circular bar. And they’re all ordering oysters, sourced from smaller farms along the upper West Coast. If you’ve got your party pants on, try 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. 1212 Second Ave, Downtown, 206-224-7000; $$$ 

Elliott’s Oyster House

It’s the stereotypically perfect Seattle location—dockside, screeching gulls, the smell of creosote and fried fish—with viewy outdoor pier tables in summer, so three trillion Seattle tourists leave our fair city thinking Seattle’s all about mediocre seafood served in corporate chain restaurants. What locals know, however, is that lurking beneath Elliott’s touristy exterior is the soul of a truly great oyster house. Off its 21-foot oyster bar, some 30 varieties of fresh, variously local oysters are available daily—Seattle’s best selection, respectfully treated. 1201 Alaskan Way, Pier 56, Waterfront, 206-623-4340; $$$ 

Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar

Curmudgeonly Seattle journalist Emmett Watson was the original co-owner of this hidden Pike Place Market cranny lined with sky-blue booths. 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 or two, and a wee plastic thimble of cocktail sauce. Maybe parsley if you’re lucky. Broiled oysters are a specialty, but the basket of fried shrimp and french fries will not disappoint. Nor will the cute courtyard. 1916 Pike Pl, Ste 16, Pike Place Market, 206-448-7721;

Frank’s Oyster House and Champagne Parlor

With its endearing blend of decor both quirky (plywood walls) and glam (velvet settees, tufted white leather bar stools), Frank’s levels a broad wink at its cocktail-swilling, oyster-slurping, steak-knifing clientele—and they love him right back. Because really, who wouldn’t love fried oysters or creamy goat cheese deviled eggs or copiously buttered lobster rolls—all preludes to big New York steaks, perhaps, or succulent pork chops with pear salad and celery root puree? Yep, the retro food is winking at you too, but it’s executed with such respect (and served with such terrific bubbly and cocktails) there’s simply no way to dismiss the place. Desserts run to exceptional creamy things, particularly a banana split with housemade ice creams and bruleed bananas. 2616 NE 55th St, Ravenna, 206-525-0220; $$ 

Salted Sea Seafood and Raw Bar 

Among the myriad pleasures available at Columbia City’s neighborhood fish house—fresh daily oysters; an ever-so-lightly-tweaked rendition of the fried calamari from the owner’s other restaurant, Hue Ky Mi Gia; and seafood preparations that mostly transcend cliche, like a crab and sweet corn soup featuring chunks of crab and cod marinated in fish sauce, all bold ginger and serrano chili and herbs, married with a confident hand. An oyster bar in back welcomes connoisseurs; two big screens over the bar bar welcome everyone else. 4915 Rainier Ave S, Ste 101, Columbia City, 206-858-6328; $$$ 

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Four types of freshly shucked oysters from Salted Sea’s oyster bar, with garnishes like seasonal mignonette, tarragon pickled mustard seed, housemade mushroom Worcestershire.

Image: Olivia Brent

Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar

Bellevue has taken to this restaurateur’s restaurant with relish—and avocado-tomatillo salsa and tomato-thyme emulsion and…you get the idea. It’s all about globally embellished seafood, presented in creamy surroundings (expense accounters take note!) in a Bellevue mid-rise. The headliner here is the raw bar, featuring noble Hawaiian ahi poke or Olympia oysters, perhaps, which purists will love. But chef John Howie also ranges all over the map to find something-for-everyone preparations—at times, alas, prepared to assembly-line standards. 205 108th Ave NE, Bellevue; $$$ 

Shuckers Oyster Bar 

The most fortuitously located restaurant downtown is a pricey paean to oysters and their briny brethren. In variety and freshness, the place does well by the bivalves, but after that, the catch of the day is your best bet. The rest of the seafood—battered halibut and chips, Louie salads, these sorts of things—varies wildly from overcooked and overcoated to decent. The space, a former haberdashery in the corner of the well-heeled Fairmont, is a gleaming looker—big for business lunches—but cramped when it crowds up. Bring the platinum card. 411 University St, Downtown, 206-621-1984; $$$$

Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bars

Each of the three dining outposts of the premier oyster farmer in the Northwest has its own menu and ambience—a pregame-fried-food feel at Pioneer Square, a bright intimacy at Seattle Center, a fish market bustle at Capitol Hill—but each forefronts oysters, which you must order. Get them by the dozen or in the form of Xinh’s oyster stew, which is like slurping the nectar straight out of the shell. Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar, 410 Occidental Ave, Pioneer Square, 206-501-4060. Taylor Oyster Bars, 124 Republic St, Lower Queen Anne, 206-501-4442. Taylor Shellfish, 1521 Melrose Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-501-4321;  $$

The Walrus and the Carpenter

And now from the idiosyncratic French sensibilities of the prolific Renee Erickson comes a Ballard nosh bar par excellence. Settle into the whitewashed-and-windowpaned rusticity (dig the enormous, coralesque chandelier) and nibble nicoise salads, her trademark cheese and pickle plates, or fresh oysters with champagne mignonette, the house specialty. Or cobble together a few heartier dishes—smoked trout with lentils, perhaps, or breathtaking steak tartare with egg yolk and toast—and call it dinner. Thoughtfully selected Euro wines and a list of Frenchy cocktails lubricate richly. From its position on the backside of Ballard Avenue’s Staple and Fancy (the two share a windowed wall) the Walrus is at once at the center of everything and away from it all; on the back patio you can smell the tide turning. 4743 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-395-9227; $$  


In summer it’s pure Hamptons, as you tie your boat to the North Lake Union dock and slurp beautifully shucked oysters at an Adirondack chair on the tiny beach. In winter it’s all about the cozy, sipping inspired cocktails in the glow of the hearth oven. Inventions can miss from time to time, and the place can suffer from a surfeit of tropes. But oh, that beach in summer. 2501 N Northlake Way, Wallingford, 206-552-8215; $$$ 

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