Oysters. Either you love them or you can’t get over the idea of swallowing a raw mollusk, which is not an easy thing to overcome for some.
If you’ve only ever tried Gulf oysters, give Atlantic oysters a shot at one of the Austin oyster bars listed in this article. They are often smaller and more flavorful, and may end up appealing to those who are hesitant to overcome the texture.
What makes oysters from different regions taste different? Eighty-five percent of oysters harvested in the U.S. are of the same species: Crassostrea virginicas. So a Blue Point is the same species as a Gulf oyster. That being said, an oyster’s unique flavor profile isn’t really about the species; it’s about the environment. This is why oysters are sometimes moved into different bays and left to grow in order to develop a sweeter or saltier taste.
Whether you can’t get enough of this briny treat or you’re mustering the courage to give oysters another try, here’s an extensive guide to locally owned establishments where you can find a variety of oysters on the half shell.
Monger’s Market + Kitchen
Monger’s Market + Kitchen is a new restaurant and market on East Cesar Chavez. They have a raw bar and usually serve Gulf oysters and Atlantic varieties.
The last time I was there, they only had Gulf oysters available. Having said that, these are probably the best Gulf oysters I’ve ever had – the largest I’ve found in Austin and the most flavorful. The folks at Monger’s Market also distribute to local businesses, so it makes sense that they have first dibs on the freshest available.
They also serve freshly-grated horseradish, which adds to the fresh taste of the oyster. Not all oyster bars make the effort.
2401 E Cesar Chavez St – Website
Hillside Farmacy is a quaint café on East 11th Street that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They normally serve fresh sandwiches, salads and homestyle entrees made with fresh local ingredients. But on Monday nights, it’s a great spot for oysters on the half shell.
Monday oyster happy hour lasts until close (10 PM), so no need to rush in after work. Grab a seat and relax on the patio with a glass of crisp white wine and a dozen of Hillside’s freshest oysters, served with a unique cucumber mignonette sauce. This sauce brings out a different flavor profile in the oysters that you may not otherwise detect.
At Hillside Farmacy, they will choose the oysters for you and bring out a mix when you order a dozen. On the particular Monday I stopped in, they had four varieties: Katama Bay, Blue Point, Daisy Bay and Quonset Point. On Mondays, a dozen oysters is about $16.
This is also a great spot for people watching, as foot traffic has picked up so much in the area.
1209 E 11th St – Website
Perla’s is an upscale seafood restaurant located on South Congress Avenue and owned by Chefs Larry McGuire and Tom Moorman. Along with their delicious cooked steak and seafood dishes, they offer a large selection of oysters, all from the East Coast. On the menu you’ll normally find about 14 oyster varieties served along with freshly-grated horseradish, cocktail sauce and mignonette sauce.
Dishes at Perla’s are fairly pricey, but well worth it when you’re in the mood to splurge. For oysters, it’s a good idea to stop by during happy hour when you can get 50 cents off oysters from 3-6 PM.
The owners of Perla’s also own Clark’s Oyster Bar, the next place on our list.
1400 S Congress Ave – Website
Clark’s is probably the most well-known oyster bar in Austin. By opening Clark’s Oyster Bar, the chefs at Perla’s brought the most extensive selection of raw oysters to Austin.
On the menu you’ll find a variety of oysters from the east and west coasts, including selections from Washington state, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, British Colombia and Prince Edward Island. They also make fresh sourdough bread in house, giving you the option to partake in fresh bread and butter to accompany your oyster feast.
Clark’s hosts happy hour Monday through Friday from 3-6 PM. During that time, oysters that typically range from $3.50-$4 each are 50 cents off.
1200 W 6th St – Website
Parkside stands in stark contrast to many other venues located on East 6th Street, offering upscale dining amongst the havoc of $2 drinks, college kids and tourists seeking to join in the infamy of “Dirty Sixth.”
This Austin restaurant offers a variety of Atlantic oysters only from Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Canada, served with a red mignonette sauce and fresh-grated horseradish. You can watch them shuck your oysters at the bar.
Happy hour is Monday-Friday from 5-6:30 PM and beer, liquor and the bar food menu are all half price during that time!
301 E 6th St – Website
Other Oyster Bars in Austin
In addition to the places mentioned above, there are a few other local Austin joints that offer oysters on the half shell. Whole Foods at the Domain has its own oyster bar, as well as an extensive list of craft beer and some wines by the glass. They usually feature one type of oyster at a time, changing seasonally.
Other Austin options include the Crawfish Shack & Oyster Bar on Wells Branch, Deckhand Oyster Bar towards Round Rock, Quality Seafood on Airport Blvd and a weekly oyster happy hour at Foreign and Domestic.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Do you have a favorite place to eat oysters on the half shell not mentioned here? Let us know what we missed!
From the mountains of Jalisco to the snowdrifts of Milwaukee, Natalie Novosad is once again an Austinite and loving how the view changes with new eyes. She’s first and foremost a writer, then a translator and lastly a chef by domestic standards. What makes her happy? Variety, debate, discovery, yoga, spices, travel, music, and sharing life with her Tapatío husband and their beagle-child.
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