People have been chowing down on oysters since as far back as the Stone Age. The ancient Greeks and Romans cultivated and consumed oysters in mass quantities, but the delicacy was usually reserved for the upper classes. In the 18th and 19th centuries, an era known as the Golden Age of Oysters, the shellfish were a staple of upper crust society, particularly in New York City but because they were so plentiful, they weren’t expensive and almost anyone could enjoy them.
Unfortunately, by the 20th century, wild oysters had become over-harvested in the U.S. and in Europe alike. To keep up with consumer demand, oyster farming increased, and today the bivalve is relatively plentiful and affordable. For reasons of both nutrition and sustainability, in fact, farmed oysters are some of the best seafood to eat.
According to a 2019 report on American fisheries in the United States produced by NOAA, the nation’s oyster industry produced 45 million pounds of the bivalves in 2018 for a total value of $219 million. In addition to dedicated oyster bars or raw bars, almost every seafood restaurant – and many other kinds as well – are apt to offer at least some oysters. (These are the best seafood restaurants in America.)
To determine the best oyster bar in every state, 24/7 Tempo consulted lists, ratings, and reviews from websites including The Daily Meal, Eater, Tasting Table, Business Insider, Thrillist, Food & Wine, the New York Times, Prior World, and Yelp, as well as numerous local and regional sites.
All of the establishments on our list feature oysters – sometimes only one or two varieties, sometimes an ever-changing selection of six or 12 or more – and most serve them raw, on the half shell. But they also offer preparations like fried oysters or oysters Rockefeller.
Almost none of these places are oyster bars exclusively. They offer other kinds of seafood or focus on steak or other dishes while making oysters available to their customers. In a few cases, oysters may be featured only on certain days. This is especially true of restaurants far from the coasts where importing oysters can be a challenge
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