Oyster season is on. From the chilly waters of the northeastern Atlantic coast, down through the Gulf and along the Pacific coast, they’re harvesting teeming beds and hauling in the nets, populating our ravenous pirate dreams.
Our fair city is flush with restaurant menus listing oysters from as close as the Gulf and as far as the world. Here are our favorite Austin spots, from the swanky to the downright divey, where we might be found bellying up — with delirious enthusiasm — to the oyster bar.
Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar
Notable for: Happy hour with $0.50 off oysters and $2 off beverages, Monday through Friday from 3-6 pm.
We call these our special occasion oysters. Currently serving 18 species of oysters from the Northeast coast, a half-dozen of these prized pets will set you back $18-$22. The people-watching on Perla’s tree-shaded patio (with a window into the weird and wonderful world of SoCo) though, is free of charge.
Clark's Oyster Bar
Notable for: Happy hour, Monday through Friday from 3-6 pm, with $0.50 off oysters, half off burgers, $5 martinis and draft beer; Saturday and Sunday from 3-6 pm, $0.50 off oysters and half off bottles of wine.
Perla’s little brother on the quiet and refined end of Sixth Street, Clark’s serves 14 species of oysters from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts at $3.25-3.50 per oyster. A little pricey, sure, but worth it for the true bivalve connoisseur hoping to sample the most prized species. We enjoy ours with a classic gin martini, dirty, in this bright and stylish space.
Foreign & Domestic
Notable for: Dollar Oyster Tuesdays from 5:30-9:30 pm. A selection of at least two types of east coast oysters are available for a buck each, plus drink specials and other Tuesday-only menu items until they run out.
Renowned for peak-of-freshness ingredients and innovative cuisine, this hip, casual spot on the edgy end of Hyde Park stays packed with satisfied patrons. You’ll find us watching the behind-the-scenes action from the bar. We order these almost-sweet, plump oysters until there are no more. We might just break the bank — one dollar at a time.
Notable for: Oyster Mondays with half-priced oysters and $5 cava all evening.
Oysters are a huge part of what charming Hillside Farmacy is all about, with species flown in from every coast, according to peak of the market availability. Mondays are all about the raw, but the Hillside Rock dish uses baked Gulf oyster, cured sausage aioli, jalapeño vinaigrette and bread crumbs to enchant oyster lovers for $12 during happy hour every day. You’ll find us getting our kicks with the Wasabi Bloody Mary, admiring the fashionable staff and vintage décor, sporting our favorite felt cloche and fancying ourselves a modern-day Zelda Fitzgerald.
Abel's on the Lake
Notable for: Happy hour with Gulf oysters priced at $0.75 each, Monday through Friday from 4-6 pm.
Abel’s is currently serving Gulf and east coast oysters with cocktail sauce, horseradish, house-made mignonette, lemon wedges and crackers. Arrive early for a decent parking spot, find the perfect table from which to wet your whistle with local Deep Eddy vodka, then watch the sun set on beautiful Lake Austin. It’s the spot we’re most likely to meet friends over a cold dozen. ... or four.
Notable for: $1 Texas Gulf oysters on the half shell, Thursdays from 6-9 pm.
A combination retail market, oyster bar and restaurant, Quality serves a full menu for lunch and dinner to a loyal crowd. We make our way directly to the oyster bar on Thursday evenings where the only dining decision is which drink we’ll select to wash down our beautiful, briny oysters. Quality Seafood also serves seven unique preparations of creole-inspired grilled oysters. It’s a great way to nurse our South Louisiana homesickness.
Deckhand Oyster Bar
Notable for: All Gulf oysters, all the time. Currently $13.99 per dozen at lunch and dinner.
Never mind the noisy crowd, the sports-related cursing or the jarring orange exterior — this is the real deal. Deckhands does not “shuck around.” Co-owners Lahn and Tarzan Saybounkam have a combined six decades of experience with oyster shucking, harvesting and serving Gulf oysters exclusively. They even own the boat from which your daily dozen is caught. Tables are scattered about the popular spot, but the real action can be seen from a stool at the bar where oysters are shucked rapidly and expertly. You’ll likely find us at there swapping fish tales over icy Lone Stars and eating pristine, plump dozens complemented by healthy drizzles of salty, spicy, Thai-inspired Deckhand sauce.
A cheat sheet for oyster newbies
Among the most popular and heavily-harvested species, you’ll find five basics:
- Crassostrea virginica (C. virginica) — Common names: Eastern, Atlantic, Gulf, Blue Point, Malpeque. Occurring naturally from Canada down the East Coast to New York, Chesapeake Bay and down and across the Gulf of Mexico.
- Crassostrea gigas (C. gigas) — Common names: Pacific, Japanese, Creuse. Introduced to the Pacific Coast from Asia, and later, France. The most common farm-raised oyster in the Pacific Northwest.
- Crassostrea sikamea (C. sikamea) — Common name: Kumamoto. Farm-raised in the Pacific Northwest and known for its small shape and deep-bottomed shell with fluted edge. Originally introduced to Washington from Japan.
- Ostrea conchaphila (O. conchaphila) or Ostrea lurida (O. lurida) — Common names: Olympia, Oly, Tiny Pacific. These half-dollar sized gems are the indigenous oysters of the Pacific Northwest.
- Ostrea edulis (O. edulis) — Common names: European, Flat, Belon. The boldest-flavored oyster with a shallow, round shell reminiscent of a dinner plate. Intense marine and mineral aftertaste.