Whether you’re a longtime oyster aficionado or are falling in love with them for the first time, you’ll notice right away that oysters from different regions have distinct flavors. Unlike most delicacies, oysters don’t get their flavors from a sauce or seasoning, they develop their unique salty brine from their environment. The coastal waters surrounding Charleston SC have their own ecosystem and produce oysters with a flavor that you won’t find anywhere else. For the freshest oysters, best variety, and enjoyable atmosphere, you’ll want to visit these 5 local oyster bars when you’re in the Holy City:
Leon’s Oyster Shop An old school body shop turned casually sophisticated oyster & poultry spot, Leon’s has earn itself a James Beard nomination and a reputation for some of the best oysters in town. Designed with the comfort and ease of southern living in mind, the restaurant serves up flavorful oysters three ways (raw, fried, or Oysters Casino) alongside lowcountry staples including fried chicken and black-eyed pea salad. The casual yet intimate dining space, tasty menu, and variety of oysters are all topped off with a dessert of soft serve & sprinkles on Upper King Street.
Pearlz Oyster Bar This self-acclaimed “eclectic little oyster bar” in West Ashley or on downtown Charleston’s famed East Bay Street, offers a full raw bar with local and Gulf oysters and locally caught seafood. With oyster options from oyster sliders to southern fried, or even oyster shooters, you really can’t go wrong. Their full bar provides crafty cocktails, cold beers, and a lively environment.
Bowen’s Island Popular with Charleston locals, you could miss this gem if you don’t turn down the right dirt road on your way to Folly Beach. This authentic lowcountry oyster joint overlooks the water on a 13-acre island and serves up some of the best locally harvested oysters in town! Steamed or fried, you can get your local oyster clusters in full or half trays and shuck them like a local from any of the decks or event spaces. More than just oysters, the menu includes fried shrimp platters, homemade hushpuppies, and their take a on a lowcountry boil, Frogmore stew.
The Darling Oyster Bar Charleston charm meets vintage chic in this popular local oyster bar in downtown Charleston. Located in a restored 115-year-old storefront on King Street, its bright green booths give it the feel of a diner that might have operated in the same space 60 years ago. With a full 14-seat raw bar, The Darling offers 6 different types of oysters, both local and from afar, king crab, ceviche and more. The perfect spot for weekend brunch, serving up Shrimp & Grits, Lobster & King Crab Roll, and Chowder Fries (made with local clams).
The Ordinary A Southern seafood hall and oyster bar with a commitment to support local and regional fishermen, crabbers, oystermen, farmers and producers. The sophisticated atmosphere in a restored, historic bank building reflects an upscale menu which features Smoked Mahe Pate, Vermillion Snapper, and their speciality, Oyster Moscow (a raw oyster topped with creme fraiche and caviar with a splash of vodka). Taste some of the best raw East Coast oysters with all the accoutrements, or crispy oysters with steak tartare, or even smoked oysters with hot sauce. Any way you slice it, The Ordinary is anything but that when it comes to local oysters and seafood.
Local lore says, ” you should only eat oysters in months with the letter “R,” so help yourselves to all the oysters you can eat from September through April but take a break from them May through August.” While it’s true that “oyster season” used to be considered just the colder winter months, thanks to local oyster farmers working to support Charleston’s booming culinary scene, locals and visitors alike can now shuck locally harvested oysters year round.
If you’re planning a trip to Charleston and you want to put oysters on the menu, our concierge team can make a reservation at any of these local restaurants, or even arrange a private oyster roast for friends & family at any of our luxury vacation rentals. That’s about as classic lowcountry as you can get!