“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”- Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast." That's a pretty serious ringing endorsement for the tasty bivalves! Experience oysters like Hemingway at these Boston eateries.
Union Oyster House
Located on the Freedom Trail, Union Oyster House is America's oldest restaurant. The building dates back to pre-revolutionary days and started serving food in 1826. It's just steps from the historic Faneuil Hall, which makes it an excellent stop for history buffs as well as oyster lovers. Raw oysters on the half shell are available at the bar and in the dining room for both lunch and dinner. Guest can also find oysters on the seafood platter alongside fried shrimp, clams, calamari and fish fillets all topped with crunchy onion rings. Union Oyster House has had its fair share of famous and influential patrons including Daniel Webster who was said to sit at the bar and order a brandy and a half dozen oysters. Fun fact: the toothpick was first used at Union Oyster House. Charles Foster imported toothpicks from South American and hired Harvard students to go to the eatery and ask for toothpicks to promote his new business venture.
One of the best and most in-demand places to enjoy oysters in Boston is Neptune Oyster. There's frequently a wait to belly up to this popular oyster bar where shuckers open meaty little oysters until 11 p.m. on weekends and 10 p.m. on weekdays. The oyster offerings rotate to whatever is freshest but frequently include local, east coast species like Wellfleets, Island Creeks and Glidden Points. West coast oysters like the delightfully sweet Kumamoto are often on hand as well. The wine list is extensive and, unsurprisingly, each white varietal pairs exceptionally well with raw, ice-cold oysters.
Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar
While most people would say champagne and oysters are the best pairing, the folks at Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar firmly believe that whiskey is the quintessential oyster pairing. The whiskey and oyster option pairs Compass Box Peat Monster blended scotch with three ice-cold raw oysters on the half shell. The combination of smoke and salt is heavenly and complex. If the peatiness of scotch is a little too much, there are more than 350 other whiskeys to choose between. Or, pair oysters a la carte with any of the fantastic cocktails. The duke martini made with frigid Plymouth gin and served in a glass flask is a prime choice for oyster pairing. The tavern is located behind Fenway Park.
Select Oyster Bar
Select Oyster Bar is in the heart of Back Bay and the best spot in the neighborhood when you're craving oysters and great wine. All of the oysters are local, Massachusetts varieties (Island Creek, Moonshoal and Glidden Point) and are available for $3.75 each. There's no minimum or maximum order so guests are encouraged to mix and match as they please. The by the glass wine options are specially curated to pair with raw oysters so selecting one may be difficult for some. The Txakolina white by the glass has bright citrus notes and a subtle salinity that will heighten any east coast oyster's flavor. However, the bubbles in the Raventos brut rosé offer a fun and luxurious alternative to a white.
Mare Oyster Bar
One of the trendiest spots to enjoy oysters in Boston's North End is Mare Oyster Bar. The sleek finishings and attractive interior design make this crudo hotspot a popular destination every night of the week. The oyster offerings rotate depending on what's freshest and are shucked to order. Guests lucky enough to get oyster bar seating enjoy a front row seat to the shucking show. The Mare shellfish tower includes 18 oysters on the half shell served alongside clams, shrimp cocktail, a chilled half lobster and Alaskan king crab. Mare has a long list of signature cocktails and wines by the glass that pair brilliantly with raw oysters. The house Negroni made with Hendrick's gin works brilliantly with an oyster's salinity. The three sparkling wines by the glass are excellent options as well.
The best place in the South End for oysters is Chef Barbara Lynch's neighborhood spot B & G Oysters. The oyster offerings rotate based on what's freshest but often include local favorites like Wellfleets, Moondancers and Pemaquids. Drop by on the weekends from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and catch the oyster happy hour. Get a single oyster of the chef's selection for only $2. The other two happy hour specials are cleverly named The Walrus (a dozen oysters on the half shell and a glass of NV Gosset Grande Reserve champagne) and The Carpenter (six oysters and a 16-ounce Narragansett) after Carrol's shellfish loving characters. Can't get enough oysters? Learn to shuck your own at the B & G oyster shucking classes. Each class for two guests includes two shucking knives for class use and to take home later, step-by-step instruction and a few practice oysters, a dozen oysters to shuck and enjoy, and two glasses of champagne.