A plate of freshly shucked oysters on the half shell is a briny and beautiful thing.
“Philadelphia has a very old and rich oyster history,” said Sam Mink, owner of the popular Rittenhouse seafood spot Oyster House.
Philadelphia’s proximity to the Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake, both of which are large oyster-producing areas, meant that in the 19th and 20th centuries, oysters and oyster bars were commonplace throughout the city. “Oysters bars used to be ubiquitous, like the way pizza parlors are in every neighborhood,” he said.
And while oyster bars aren’t as common as they once were in this area, there are still a number of great restaurants to visit for fresh oysters — many of which serve full-flavored oysters harvested from the Delaware Bay.
Below, find the best restaurants for freshly shucked oysters in the Philly area.
Oyster House on Sansom Street has the best, most expertly shucked selection of oysters around, plus great fried oysters. They frequently serve a half-dozen varieties, including oysters from the Delaware Bay, Long Island, Cape Cod, Canada, and more, so there’s lots from which to choose. Happy hour runs Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the oyster bar and at some outdoor tables. During happy hour, a rotating oyster (usually local) costs $2 a pop. Don’t forget to tip your shucker. On National Oyster Day (August 5), Oyster House will be throwing an outdoor party on Sansom Street with Barnegat Oyster Collective; stop by for oyster-shucking lessons, local oyster tastings, and $2 oysters.
Inside Reading Terminal Market, the menu at Pearl’s Oyster Bar leans classic with fried oyster and clam platters, crab cakes, clam chowder, and more, alongside fresh oysters available for $14 for a half dozen or $3 each.
Sweet Amalia Market and Kitchen is named for co-owner Lisa Calvo’s Sweet Amalia oyster farm on the Delaware Bay, and, naturally, its oysters are the draw, both from the farm and from Barnegat Oyster Co. Try a half dozen raw ($18), baked ($20), or fried ($16), as well as cornmeal-crusted on a roll with celery root slaw ($16).
You may not be able to pop into Marc Vetri’s namesake restaurant and get them à la carte, but Sweet Amalia oysters are typically available as an addition to the restaurant’s four-course, prix-fixe menu ($135). Heads up: The Sweet Amalia oysters have been so popular, they’ve been hard to keep on the menu, but look for them again this fall. They come served with a seasonal accompaniment (this summer, it was a pluot mignonette); a half dozen is $24.
There are two ways to order your oysters at Vernick Fish, chef Greg Vernick’s American oyster bar on the bottom floor of the Comcast Technology Center: raw by the half dozen ($22) and the broiled oysters Philadelphia ($24), which come topped with genoa salami and provolone.
River Twice on East Passyunk Avenue also sources its oysters from a favorite on this list: Sweet Amalia oyster farm in Cape May. The oysters are drizzled with a strawberry kosho purée and a flavorful anise hyssop oil; a half dozen will run you $18.
There are both East and West Coast oysters on the menu at Old City’s Royal Boucherie for market price, along with other raw bar options like shrimp cocktail and lobster cocktail. You can also splurge and get oysters on a seafood platter with a daily rotation of other seafood (small platter $48; large $95).
Sweet Amalia oysters are the star at a.kitchen as well where one of a.kitchen’s chefs moonlights as a delivery driver for the New Jersey oyster farm. The bivalves come on the half shell with garlic scape mignonette and grilled lemon, at $21 for six.
📍 1737 Walnut St., 📞 215-825-7030, 🌐 akitchenandbar.com, 📷 @akitchenphilly, 🕑 Tue.-Fri. lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 4-10 p.m., Sat. brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 4-10 p.m., Sun. brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 4-9 p.m.
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Bring a bottle of white wine to pair with the freshly shucked Cape May oysters at Conshohocken’s Blackfish BYOB. The oysters are topped with whipped Meyer lemon and a light topping of pickled fennel and pink peppercorn, and sold at market price.
The Queen Village water main break means this favorite seafood BYOB is closed for now, but it’s expected to reopen at some point next week. Once they’re back, stop by and order their fresh, briny oysters served with mignonette sauce.
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Fond in East Passyunk serves both East and West Coast oysters, paired with a shallot-forward champagne mignonette sauce to help balance the oyster’s natural saltiness. They come at $18 for a half dozen.
The oysters on the menu at Standard Tap change often to keep up with demand and availability but are always served with mignonette sauce and lemon wedges.
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