The Lowcountry shows its love for the best oysters in Charleston
Tradition holds that any month with an “R” equals prime time for wild oysters in Charleston. But don’t be fooled into believing you can’t enjoy them year-round from the many oyster farmers who harvest specialties with equally tasty merrior.
Merr what? Merroir is to oysters as terroir is to grapes — the infusion of surrounding waters (soil for grapes) creates an oyster’s unique essence.
The more you expose yourself to different varieties, the more you’ll taste the distinct merroir.
No matter what month, or which variety, the local, briny bivalves feature the unmistakable taste of the Carolina coast. Seafood restaurants in Charleston feature the salty delights with extensive raw bar selections and unique cooked preps. A variety of dining venues are available too, from charming historic buildings and former plantation sites, to waterside decks and energetic cafes.
Bring on the roasts! The Lowcountry is all about socializing and oyster roasts are the most popular reason for family and friends to gather. These annual favorite festivals keep locals and visitors shucking all afternoon. Never shucked an oyster? Refer to our Ohhhh Shucks – How to Open an Oyster feature for instructions and tips.
The most revered Oyster Roast of the year is held annually at Mount Pleasant’s Boone Hall Plantation historic site. Sponsored by the Lowcountry Oyster Festival, 2022’s event is set for February 6. Highlights include live music, children’s activities, food court, and of course, oysters — over 60,000 pounds of them! As a charitable fundraiser, the event benefits a myriad of local charities.
Other roasts include “Oysters on the Point,” January-March at Charleston Harbor Resort featuring local oysters, live music, and plenty of beer choices, and the Charleston Animal Society Chili Cook-off & Oyster Roast held in November.
If you’re not in town for one of the annual events, don’t worry! For lip smacking raw, roasted, and savory cooked preps, belly up to one of these select dining choices.
Discover the Best Oysters in Charleston
Whether you prefer them raw on the half, fried and piled high, char-grilled and swimming in butter, or starring in a savory stew, the best oysters in Charleston are found at these top-notch restaurants.
This seafood market and oyster bar are in the heart of downtown. Nantucket roots with their popular sister restaurant lends to 167 Raw’s cool ocean vibe. The raw bar is the real draw, with clams, shrimp, crab claws and of course, oysters; daily changing selections include east and west coast, along with local varieties. A pleasant alternative to the more upscale seafood restaurants in Charleston, this low-key eatery also offers out of this world lobster rolls and tuna burgers, with both indoor and outdoor dining options.
With its vibrant atmosphere and vast selection, 167 Raw is a must-do again…. and again. Though they don’t take reservations and the wait seems long, no worries, the back bar energy, frozen cocktails, and appetizer options pass the time tasty and quick. 193 King St., Charleston.
Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar
Anchoring an historic building just a few steps from the Charleston City Market, Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar retains its 1800s architecture while housing a contemporary, comfortable dining atmosphere. The menu features a variety of seafood dishes, but the raw bar is where oyster enthusiasts linger.
The fresh oyster selection changes daily, with nearly two dozen varieties available on any given day. East coast provenance ranges from South Carolina to New York, Rhode Island, and Maine. Cooked oyster offerings include fried with sweet corn and green tomato chow-chow, baked with spinach and Tasso Rockefeller sauce, or fried and tossed on a salad. Belly up y’all! 205 E. Bay St., Charleston.
Anson Restaurant is an elegant and stylish restaurant, perfect for a romantic dinner or quiet times with friends and family. The building’s classic southern facade decked with wrought iron balcony and overflowing window boxes fosters anticipation that something truly special awaits inside. Expectations are easily fulfilled by its intimate interior, excellent service, and exceptional fare.
Start with the Roasted East Coast Oysters prepared with garlic butter and parmesan, then get ready to experiencethe chef’s innovative twists on traditional Southern cuisine with such entres as Whole Crispy Flounder with apricot shallot sauce and Shrimp Linguine with local Carolina shrimp, white wine and garlic, or go for a true Lowcountry staple, Shrimp & Grits with bacon and tomatoes. How can you say no to dessert? From Pecan pie and Chocolate hazelnut cake, to Crème brulee and Duck fat apple streusel, you’ll stroll away utterly satiated. 12 Anson St., Charleston.
Art’s Bar and Grill
Art’s Bar and Grill is a tried and true local hangout gaining favor with both locals, and the lucky tourists who hear about them. Serving oysters only in traditional “R” months, fresh local Bulls Bay clusters are steam roasted on the outdoor deck, heaped into buckets and brought to your table piping hot. Aside from the briny delights, Art’s cooks up fantastic fried shrimp along with juicy burgers, flounder and pimento grilled cheese sandwiches, and more. With a fully stocked bar and ample outdoor dining, you can’t go wrong. 413 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant.
A.W. Shucks Seafood Shack
This classic venue (often found with a line out the door) has been open in downtown Chucktown since 1978. It’s food is just as humbly good as its A.W. Shucks name. Whet your appetite with a variety of oysters on the half, then go for their fabled oyster fry or oyster po’boy with house made remoulade. Had your fill of bi-valves? Try their Soft Shell Crab Taco or Charleston Shrimp n Grits with sausage and gravy. Indoor and patio dining available. 70 State St, Charleston.
Bowens Island Restaurant
Originally opened in 1946 on the tip of a remote 13-acre island minutes from Folly Beach, this seafood joint has been a go-to casual counter-service eatery for generations of Charlestonians. Bowens Island is not for refined diners seeking white covered tablecloths; guests come for the casual atmosphere and uninterrupted views of the water, wildlife, and sunsets.
Renowned for serving the best oysters in Charleston, Bowen’s prepares them raw and fried, but it’s their traditional roast prep that earns consistent attention. Other popular dishes include fried shrimp, crab cakes, hushpuppies, and savory Frogmore Stew — also known as Lowcountry boil — a combination of sausage, shrimp, corn on the cob, and potatoes. 1870 Bowens Island Rd., Charleston.
Coast Bar and Grill
Coast Bar and Grill offers indoor and outdoor seating in a quaint downtown alley setting. Start with the daily oysters on the half or for a cooked prep, don’t miss Coast’s Manchego Baked Oysters topped with garlic-parsley butter and Manchego cheese. Work up to a plate of their fantastic Fried Oysters with Bacon Blue Cheese Slaw. For the non-oyster lover, go for the Cangrejo Ceviche with Blue Crab, Scallops, Pico de Gallo, served with orange and corn chips — what seafood lover can resist? A superb wine cellar complements any choice. D Hutson Alley, 39 John St., Charleston.
CudaCo Seafood House
Where fish butchery and fresh seafood market meet culinary adventure, CudaCo Seafood House pairs the freshest catch with imaginative flavors and cutting edge preparation. Smoked, raw or made to order, the concept has wowed diners since opening day in December 2020. Oysters are procured locally and along the East coast. Outdoor picnic tables adjacent to the salt marsh are the perfect setting for enjoying a laid back lunch.
CudaCo’s creative menu plays host to atypical offerings from other local seafood markets, ready for a grab ‘n go on your way to Folly Beach, or home to amaze family and friends. Fresh is the only way this hybrid seafood establishment runs, offering seasonal dishes such as Smoked Oyster Benne Soup with sweet onion and a trout roe option, or Baked Oysters with Pecorino cheese and Sweet Reaper hot sauce.
FOR FUN: If you see owner Brian on your visit, ask him about his pet Barracuda Charlie!
Delaney Oyster House
Located in a quintessential historic Charleston single home, Delaney Oyster House celebrates the charm and hospitality of the Holy City with humble, intimate flair. With a nod to classic oyster houses, recent selections varied from Charleston and nearby Carolinian waters, along the east coast up to New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Dressed with Meyer Lemon Ginger Mignonette, aficionado’s will struggle to limit their choices to a single dozen. Elevated prep features Oysters Delaney — topped with caviar, cultured cream, chive and champagne. Add to the decadence with Markey’s Hackleback Caviar served with cornmeal blinis, cream, and chives.
The temptations continue with Blue Crab Rice, sofrito and bacon; New Brunswick Scallops, grits, and walnut salsa verde; and Braised Beef Short Rib, collards, and red wine jus. Offerings easily lend themselves to small plates for sampling light seafood preps like Yellowfin Tuna Crudo, Spice Snapper Ceviche, and Poached Lobster Roll. Cocktail and wine selections compliment the food, and veranda seating adds to the southern vibe. 115 Calhoun St., Charleston.
Empire Oyster Temple & Raw Lab at Port of Call
New to Charleston’s food scene in 2021 is Empire Oyster Temple & Raw Lab. Housed in historic downtown’s vibrant Port of Call Food Hall, both eateries are under the same ownership and management, yet each provides a unique dining experience that justifies their name’s authority.
At Empire Oyster Temple, an average of 14 oyster varieties are offered along with traditional accompaniments. Order at the stand-up counter where you can point to the exact crustaceans you want shucked and served. Master Mermmelier Kevin Joseph humbly assists with suggestions; wait, mermme what? A Mermmelier is to oysters as a Sommelier is to wine, adding training and expertise in raw bar programs and hospitality as a whole. Simplified: you’re in very capable hands.
Round out your oyster order with a half or full pound of peel ‘n eat steamed shrimp. Then head to the indoor or outdoor bar, grab a cold beer or cocktail, choose a seat, and await your food’s arrival. Located across from the historic City Market, the venue also offers live music during lunch and weekend nights.
If you’re looking for sit-down table-service, make reservations well in advance for the Raw Lab. Omakase fans don’t want to miss this one of a kind raw bar experience where the chef is entrusted with all multi-course dish selections. Chef Joseph’s artful prep and exquisite presentation affords you front row food theater seats. Served in an intimate, private dining room adjacent to the food hall, the Raw Lab also boasts ultra-premium wine, Sake, beer and spirits. 99 S. Market St., Charleston.
Felix Cocktails et Cuisine
For oyster lovers who also adore French cuisine, head to Felix Cocktails et Cusine. An authentic bistro ambience greets you as soon as you walk in the door. The broad vibrant bar and bright cheery colors are complemented by warm wooden tables and cozy leather banquettes and booths.
Start with their traditional oysters on the half service, a changing selection of fresh local, east and west coast varieties. Continue with Petit Plats choices such as Lobster Deviled Eggs, Crab Croquettes, and Assiette de Fromage — seasonal French cheeses served with truffle arugula, honey, candied pecans, tapenade and of course, a baguette. You can’t go wrong with any salad selection or their Soupe à L’oignon, an onion and melted gruyère soup sensation.
Dinner choices offer anticipated favorites like Petit Steak-Frites & Egg with béarnaise, and Croque Madame featuring parisian ham with gruyère, and béchamel. But the locally famous Raclette Burger — double short rib-brisket blended patties with caramelized onion — will make you dismiss any preconceived notions of a hamburger.
Felix is also well-known as serving one of the best brunches in town, though oysters are not always available. 550 King S., Charleston
Pearlz Oyster Bar
Calling itself an “eclectic little oyster bar,” Pearlz Oyster Bar has two locations in Charleston, both catering to oyster aficionados. Whether you’re looking to sample a variety of raw oysters, or crustaceans with culinary pizzazz, Pearlz menu is an overpowered slate of options. Popular with the happy hour crowd, it’s an ideal hotspot to start your night around town.
The signature oyster shooter with pepper vodka is a classic start before diving into the depths; choose from a selection of raw oysters, oysters Rockefeller, New Orleans-style charbroiled, or Pearlz Fried Oyster Dinner with corn fritters. Add an Angus NY Strip for true surf n turf. Other seafood temptations include their Chilled Seafood Plateau featuring raw & cooked oysters, clams, shrimp, mussels, lobster, tuna, and crab salad. 153 E. Bay St., Charleston and 9 Magnolia Rd., West Ashley.
If “Go fancy or stay home” is your motto, head to Peninsula Grill, where the dining room boasts velvet walls and custom-made chandeliers, among other impressive details that earn the restaurant’s AAA-four-diamond rating. A lush courtyard entry sweeps you off bustling Market Street into a private oasis. Cuisine meets Relais & Châteaux standards with a variety of traditional bivalve selections offered on their elegant Champagne Bar Menu — Oysters on the Half with Champagne Mignonette, Oysters Rockefeller with Arugula and Asiago, or Oysters Casino with Smoked Bacon.
After indulging in the ocean’s aphrodisiacs, seal the savory deal with a decadent slice of their famous 12-layer coconut cake — a staple since their second night of service, Valentine’s Day 1997. Don’t miss their longstanding dusk tradition when the stunning courtyard’s carriage lanterns are lit by hand. 112 N. Market St., Charleston.
TIP: If Corey is behind the bar, ask him to make his specialty Champagne Cocktail and tell him Bernie sent ya!
Rappahannock Oyster Bar
Five hundred miles south of its Virginia headquarters, Rappahannock Oyster Bar’s Charleston outpost is nestled along the Cooper River in a 19th-century cigar factory that serves as one of the Holy City’s liveliest destinations for fresh bivalves. The sprawling complex covers over 4,000 square feet, with ample outdoor seating and a handsome, 40-seat indoor copper bar that’s perfect for sipping craft cocktails or well-chosen wines.
Serving the reliable oysters on the half, along with many other traditional preps, the kitchen elevates classics to new levels. Fill up on the raw bar, then try something new. Signatures include grilled oysters with smoked jalapeno butter, baked clams with Thai sausage and coconut reduction, and shrimp and grits made with black garlic, piquillo peppers, shellfish butter, and Geechie Boy grits. You’ll also see vegan and meaty options that are sure to please. 701 E. Bay St., No.110, Charleston.
The Darling Oyster Bar
Showcased in a beautifully restored 115-year-old storefront on historic King Street, The Darling Oyster Bar’s welcoming venue creates excitement and anticipation the moment you walk through the door. The crisp black and white tiled floor contrasts against an exposed brick wall, soaring with windows that cast natural light on a long, fully stocked bar.
Choosing what to eat isn’t the usual “Do I want this or that?” decision; menu selections are as bodacious as the sea. Like your oysters raw? Go for the shooters with pepper-infused vodka. Want them cooked? Opt for one of three-ways baked. The Blue Crab Tagliatelle with house-made pasta is a local fav, as is the lobster and king crab roll on a split-top bun. For those looking for non-seafood, the burgers and fried chicken come saddled along with a list of sides including collards with ham, and Geechie Boy grits with pepper relish. If a Bloody Mary brunch is on your mind, you’ve met your match. Check out our Charleston’s Best Brunches feature for more on this bloody delight.
And There’s More
With hundreds of seafood serving restaurants in the Lowcountry, there are too many Charleston area eateries to list each one at length. To ensure you’ve got a well-rounded oyster-themed guide, we’ve included a condensed list of other terrific places to keep your crustacean cravings happy. All are definitely worth your time and appetite. We love to hear about your experiences; email anytime, and let us know if you discover others to add.
Restaurants marked with an asterisk * indicate their inclusion in our Looking for the Best Places to Eat Seafood in Charleston? feature article. Simply click the listing name for more details.
Church and Union Charleston offers prime oysters on the half shell along with an intriguing menu of creative cuisine in an elegant renovated church setting. 32B N Market St., Charleston
*Fleet Landing is one of the few waterfront dining opportunities in Charleston; enjoy oysters and harbor views at this revitalized 1940s-era naval building. 186 Concord St., Charleston.
*Florence’s Kitchen is steeped in Lowcountry cooking tradition; folks rave over their oyster po’boy with creole remoulade, and fried oysters with red rice and southern slaw. 90 Folly Road Blvd., Charleston.
Gabrielle at the Hotel Bennett exudes style and class where upscale diners enjoy oysters on the half with chili pepper mignonette and lemon, or expertly roasted with garlic maitre’d butter. 404 King St., Charleston.
*Hank’s Seafood lends a nod back to the great Charleston fish houses of the 1940s with a variety of oyster styles, including Oysters Casino with garlic butter, smoked bacon, asiago cheese, and crunchy breadcrumbs. 10 Hayne St., Charleston.
High Cotton ups the ante on classic southern cuisine with their traditional oysters on the half shell, or baked with Charleston Cheese House hickory-smoked brie. Add the appeal of it’s schmoozy bar with live music and it’s easy to understand why this Hall’s family restaurant is a local favorite. 199 E. Bay St., Charleston.
*Hyman’s Seafood is a Charleston institution since 1924 and known for its local oysters from nearby Bulls Bay. 215 Meeting St., Charleston.
*Leon’s Oyster Shop brings locals to their favorite casual upper King Street haunt not only for the fresh oysters, but finger licking fried chicken. 698 King St., Charleston.
*NICO Oysters + Seafood brings inspiring French flavors to their restaurant near Shem Creek. Boasting the largest oyster selection in South Carolina, their extensive beverage menu is equally enviable. 201 Coleman Blvd., Mount Pleasant
Prohibition delivers 1920s style in the middle of downtown Charleston where diners enjoy the sweet sounds of jazz while slurping pickleback mignonette flavored oysters on the half. 547 King St., Charleston.
*Tempest is one of the most celebrated 2020 restaurants in Charleston, offering an extraordinary menu of seafood favorites; stop in for the oysters or the “Tempest Tower” of ocean delicacies. 32C N. Market St., Charleston.
The Obstinate Daughter on quaint Sullivan’s Island provides a laid back vibe for combining oysters with their excellent craft beer selections. 2063 Middle St., Sullivans Island.
*The Ordinary is anything but ordinary when it comes to food, showcasing a terrific raw bar, oyster sliders, and fantastic cocktails. 544 King St., Charleston.
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Please be sure to contact each establishment to verify opening hours, reservation policies, health requirements, and any other variations.