Versus: Go Shuck Yourself

Slurping oysters at The Brooklyn and Elliott’s Oyster House.

The Dish: With so many beloved Seattle dining institutions offering oyster happy hours these days, we set out to find one that could not only lure us in, but keep us slurping for a while. Some clues that you're in a good oyster bar: It's packed; you feel a sense of nostalgia; the shucker is visible and willing to answer your oyster questions; and there's a list of oyster wines to complement the sea snack. So which oyster bar has the winning shell game?The Rivals: The Brooklyn, 1212 Second Ave., 224-7000. This seafood/steakhouse in the financial district has long been the place to go for oysters. The bar is always full during oyster happy hour (3–5 p.m.), when nearby cubicle slaves stumble in for a stiff drink and cheap oysters. The Brooklyn Creek variety was the special the evening we arrived. These Vancouver Island oysters, $1 apiece, were served alongside three condiments: horseradish, mignonette, and cocktail sauce. Light danced off the oyster, signaling that they were fresh and shucked seconds before we got our hands on them. Many of the oysters, however, showed signs that they were long in the tooth: soft and lacking the pliability of an oyster eaten early in the year. Even these managed to retain the flavor of the sea and the crispness of summer water, however.Elliott's Oyster House, 1201 Alaskan Way (Pier 56), 623-4340. Elliott's has a progressive oyster happy hour from 3–6 p.m.; the price of an oyster rises 25 cents each half-hour. Thus at 3 p.m. your oyster is 50¢, but when 5:30 p.m. rolls around, it's $1.75. On one visit we were treated to some pretty scrumptious Gold Creek oysters from Hood Canal, bright, lively, and just all-around flavorful. The next day, Jorstad oysters were the happy-hour special. But these were not only too creamy and anemic, they were also not properly shucked. We had to dig out every single oyster, from our platter of a dozen, with a fork. Not fun. Elliott's oysters are served on a tier with a terrific, tangy champagne mignonette, and come with a basket of fresh rolls and butter. The extra charge and the carb accompaniments did not make up for the fact that we not only waited nearly 30 minutes for our order in a non-packed bar (twice), but that the oysters were just plain hard to eat. One thing Elliott's gets extra points for, however, is their list of award-winning oyster wines. We paired our order with a 2008 Acrobat Pinot Gris by Oregon's King Estate Winery. Talk about livening up the action on the half-shell: This crisp wine rounded out the oysters, making them (almost) a complete meal.The Champ: The Brooklyn wins this challenge for their overall oyster experience. Their bivalves were vibrant and tender; you could taste the vitality in every bite. They also score points for their lively happy-hour crowd and an intimate copper-topped oyster bar that wears its fraying edges like a badge of honor. We're hooked.jperry@seattleweekly.com

 
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