With so many beloved Seattle dining institutions offering oyster happy hour these days, we set out to find which one could not only lure us in, but keep us slurping for more. Some clues that you're in a good oyster bar: there's a sense of nostalgia, the bar is packed, the shucker is visible and willing to answer any oyster questions you have, and there is a list of oyster wines to compliment the sea snack. So, which oyster bar has the winning shell game?
1212 Second Ave., 224-7000
This seafood and steakhouse in Seattle's financial district has long been the place to go for oysters. Not much has changed. The bar is always full during oyster happy hour (3-5pm) when nearby cubicle slaves stumble in for a stiff drink and cheap oysters. Brooklyn Creek were on special the evening we arrived. These oysters from Vancouver Island were $1 a piece and were served along side three condiments: horseradish, mignonette, and cocktail sauce. The 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 becoming long in the tooth. They were becoming soft and lacked the pliability of an oyster eaten early in the year. They still managed to retain the flavor of the sea and the crispness of summer waters.
|Elliott's put their oysters on a pedestal.|
1201 Alaskan Way (Pier 56), 623-4340
Elliott's has a progressive oyster happy hour from 3-6pm in which the price of an oyster raises 25-cents per half-hour. That means, at 3pm your oyster is 50-cents, and by the time 530pm rolls around, your oyster is $1.75. During one visit, we were treated to some pretty scrumptious Gold Creek oysters from Hood Canal. They were bright and lively and just all-around flavorful. The next day, Jorstad oysters were the happy hour special. These oysters, on top of the fact that they were too creamy and anemic, were not properly shucked. We had to dig out every single oyster, from our platter of a dozen, with a fork. Not fun. The oysters at Elliott's come served on a tier with a terrific tangy champagne mignonette. They also come with a basket of fresh rolls and butter. The extra charge, and the extra carb accompaniments, do 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 is their list of award-winning oyster wines. We paired our order with a 2008 Acrobat Pinot Gris by King Estate, OR. Talk about livening up the action on the half shell, this crisp wine rounded out the oysters, making it (almost) a complete meal.
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 with their lively happy hour crowd and intimate, copper-topped oyster bar that wears its fraying edges like a badge of honor. We're hooked.