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Shuck, Slurp, Repeat: Charleston's 10 Best Oyster Bars



As soon as you arrive in Charleston, South Carolina, you know you're in a special place–unique with its own southern graces and coastal charms. And if you're an oyster lover, you'll feel nearly spoiled after a meal at any Charleston seafood restaurant or oyster bar. In the South Carolina lowcountry, oyster bar dining comes standard with incredible sunset and ocean views, shady courtyard seating, and local live music.

Oyster lovers know there are two ways to indulge: in the finest of seafood establishments, where the oyster is revered, or in a place as casual as they come, where you're more likely to find oysters fried than on the half shell.

For the ultimate in oyster fine dining, look no further than The Ordinary, a classic raw bar and restaurant housed in a historic bank building on Upper King. Just a few blocks away, there's COAST, another oyster hotspot with top-notch service, and in the other direction, Leon's, an oyster establishment known just as well for its fried chicken. 167 Raw, on East Bay, offers an elegant option for an intimate oyster date, alongside a wide variety of raw bar temptations.

The more casual oyster and seafood crowd will enjoy Bowens Island Restaurant, a local's haven occupying it's own island just south of Charleston. Snag a view with your oysters from the deck of Fleet Landing downtown, or slurp down an oyster shooter–a local specialty–at Pearlz Oyster Bar. Wherever you choose, settle in for a uniquely Charleston oyster experience.


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One of two Noisy Oyster locations in the area (the other is in North Charleston), this family-friendly seafood restaurant may not be a traditional oyster bar, but it does serve up oysters in all their forms. Get your mouth watering with a look at the menu preparations: Buffalo Fried Oysters, Oysters Rockefeller, Fried Gulf Oysters with chili cocktail sauce, and, of course, steamed or raw on the half shell. Can't decide how you'd like your oysters tonight? Try the Noisy Oyster Sampler plate for three Buffalo-fried and three Rockefeller. Of course, there's more at the raw bar here than just the restaurant's namesake, including littleneck clams and peel-and-eat shrimp.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: The Noisy Oyster downtown is the ideal choice for families looking for a raw bar menu alongside kid-friendly options.

Clare's expert tip: Register for the Noisy Oyster VIP club and get a coupon for buy one get one free entrees!

Read more about Noisy Oyster Seafood Restaurant →




It's no surprise that many first time visitors to Charleston want to make a beeline for the nearest restaurant with water views. Something about eating seafood adjacent to its natural habitat gets our appetites going. Thankfully, Fleet Landing delivers, with a wide open deck space, killer views of the marsh and harbor, and an awesome selection of fried, grilled, and raw seafood. Oyster lovers can choose from Fried Oysters with Southern Comfort BBQ Sauce, Chilled Oysters on the Half Shell, Fried Oyster platters, or a Fried Oyster Spinach Salad. Any way you choose to consume them, Fleet Landing's oysters will not disappoint.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Fleet Landing offers up an unexpectedly rare Charleston experience: seafood dining on the water. Reserve a deck table for the best view in the house.

Clare's expert tip: Plan to call ahead for reservations. On busy weekend nights, Fleet Landing is typically on a 1-2 hour wait.

Read more about Fleet Landing Restaurant & Bar →




Just around the block from the Charleston City Market, Amen Street Fish and Raw bar is ideally located for groups and families in search of oysters after a long day of city explorations. Amen Street is nearly always buzzing with new and regular customers, drawn to the large variety and freshness of the menu. Oyster fans will revel in the variety and preparation choices offered at Amen Street, with over 24 types of oysters on hand. For something different, try your oysters baked and stuffed with spinach, fried on a kale salad. Picky seafood eaters in your party? There are plenty of options for lunch and dinner at Amen Street that cater to less adventurous menu choices.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Amen Street takes pride in the seafood they serve, and it shows in the quality of their oysters!

Clare's expert tip: Plan on shopping at the Charleston City Market before dinner? Make plans (and reservations) to grab oysters at Amen Street afterwards--it's just around the corner.

Read more about Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar →


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COAST Bar and Grill
Photo courtesy of Coast Bar & Grill


Three words: Oyster Happy Hour. That's right, COAST is the home of an all-oyster happy hour from 5:30pm - 7:30pm every Thursday, when you can get a half dozen oysters for just $7! COAST is an ideal seafood and oyster choice on any day of the week, with oysters offered Rockefeller, on the half shell, raw, steamed, cocktail or Mignonette. For those who prefer their bivalves fried, COAST offers creole fried oysters, or plain fried oysters with bacon and blue cheese french fries. There's so much more than oysters on this COAST, though. Add an order of Crab Encrusted Tilapia, Ceviche, or Salt & Pepper Calamari to your meal for a complete seafood experience.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: COAST quite literally lives up to its name, representing Charleston well with fresh, locally-sourced oysters.

Clare's expert tip: If you're on John Street, you're in the right place. Look for the neon sign next to Rue de Jean's.

Read more about COAST Bar and Grill →




A longtime favorite of both locals and visitors alike, Pearlz Oyster and Raw bar offers a well-rounded oyster experience to all bivalve lovers. With two Charleston locations (East Bay Street downtown and Magnolia Road in West Ashley), Pearlz offers a wide variety of local and exotic oysters. Pearlz is known for their oyster shooters, a liquor shot consisting of pepper vodka, an oyster, and cocktail sauce--a popular item that's equal parts appetizer and cocktail. Oysters are served on the half-shell, steamed, or southern-fried with bleu cheese and buffalo sauce. For others seeking something other than oysters, the Pearlz menu includes peel-and-eat shrimp, crab cakes, calamari, tuna tacos, and lobster rolls.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: A stop for oyster apps at Pearlz makes for an excellent start to a night out in downtown Charleston--especially during happy hour (4pm - 7pm).

Clare's expert tip: Order a round of oyster shooters at Pearlz, $3.50 each during happy hour!

Read more about Pearlz Oyster and Raw Bar →




Tucked away on quiet Hayne Street near the Charleston City Market, Hank's often surprises first-time guests. The restaurant, with its understated outside appearance and time-worn painted lettering, is elegant inside. Though Hank's offers a fine dining type of atmosphere and service, the menu and staff remain very approachable and friendly. Hank's makes an excellent choice for groups or large families visiting Charleston in search of fresh oysters and other seafood. Oysters appear on the menu on the half shell from the raw bar, oysters casino with smoked bacon, fried with green tomato sweet corn, or as oyster stew. Hank's oysters also star in the Seafood Tower and Seafood Castle, Hank's specialty orders consisting of a massive, elegantly plated display of cooked and raw shellfish.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Hank's is the Charleston choice for fresh, local oysters and seafood in a classic environment, served with true care and attention to detail.

Clare's expert tip: Take your large party to celebrate with a Seafood Tower at Hank's. This gorgeous display of shellfish is not to be missed!

Read more about Hank's Seafood Restaurant →


4
North Downtown


Many a local will recommend Leon's Oyster Shop for many a reason. As its name implies, Leon's specializes in oysters, and the shellfish appear on the menu raw with saltines, char-grilled, fried Rockefeller, and as oysters casino. Indeed, Leon's does oysters a service in offering them with simple, pure preparations. But Leon's has so much more in store than oysters. Settle in to a cozy indoor table or sidle up to the long bar space, and dig into your oysters, following them with a 2-piece, half, or whole fried chicken order. There's fried fish, too. For a wholly sea-sourced meal, opt for the Fry Up--fried fish served alongside fried oysters or shrimp. If the weather's ideal, take your oysters to the outside patio, set next to the street with charming string lights and potted plants.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: The entire Leon's experience is thoughtful and at times unexpected with every detail--from the simple char-grilled oysters and fried chicken to the lively, buzzing atmosphere.

Clare's expert tip: Plan for a full evening out at Leon's Oyster Shop--a true local's hangout for fresh oysters and refreshing cocktails. You'll want to linger here.

Read more about Leon's Oyster Shop →


Bowens Island Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Rodney Hammond


You're in for a real treat when you opt to visit Bowens Island Restaurant, a place with an entire 13-acre island to itself. The restaurant itself, and its simple, unique concept, were founded by May and Jimmy Bowen in 1946. Located just a few minutes drive from Folly Beach, Bowens Island Restaurant is known for its outstanding oysters, served fresh from the water mere feet from its inlet-view dock. Here, you'll catch some of the best sunsets around while indulging in all-you-can-eat local oysters in an ultra-casual and family-friendly environment. Bowens Island Restaurant is no 'oyster bar,'but instead more of an oyster haven, complete with cheap local beers, hush puppies, and fried shrimp to accompany your oysters.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: Bowens Island Restaurant epitomizes the fresh, local seafood experience in Charleston, where oysters are served by the shovelful from local waters.

Clare's expert tip: Plan for dinner at Bowens Island Restaurant on your way back from Folly for a casual, laid back meal--just in time to catch the sunset.

Read more about Bowens Island Restaurant →




The mini market and intimate date night restaurant across from the Harris Teeter grocery store is small and unassuming from the outside. But inside, guests can dive headfirst into the freshest selection of raw bar delicacies around, with oysters serving as the main event for many of their regular customers. This ever-bustling raw bar at 167 Raw features a chalkboard menu of offerings that changes as frequently as the tides, including a daily selection of oysters from local waters and beyond. The people at the helm of Charleston's There's much, much more than oysters at 167 Raw. In fact, the crew at 167 Raw is known locally as lobster roll loyalty. Stop by this East Bay hotspot to decide for yourself: best oysters in town, best lobster roll, or both?

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: 167 Raw does everything right, from lobster rolls, po' boys, and ceviche, to nearly any oyster, clam and crab claw you can put on ice.

Clare's expert tip: Try to plan your 167 Raw date for a slow weeknight on an empty stomach. Trust us.

Read more about 167 Raw →




It's all too easy to reiterate the cliche: The Ordinary is anything but. That's an easy observation to make, even before sampling anything from the full menu of oyster bar offerings. The building itself, once a fancy bank, is elegant in black and white marble, enjoying its reincarnation as Charleston's best known (and loved) oyster and raw bar. Expect to feast on East Coast oysters, local stone crab claws, peel-and-eat shrimp, razor clams, even caviar (served with potato chips). Should you decide to use a raw bar order as just a warm up, there are large plates to follow: Grouper, Triggerfish, and Snapper are among the many options, served alongside your choice of vegetable complements. For the ultimate indulgence, put in a tall order: The Ordinary's Shellfish Tower, a single, double, or triple-story display of raw and cooked seafood and garnishes.

Recommended for Oyster Bars because: The Ordinary reigns supreme among Charleston raw bars for its unprecedented attention to detail, stunning presentation, and sheer variety of local and exotic shellfish.

Clare's expert tip: Snag a seat at the bar. Something about the historic bank building makes a drink go all too nicely with your smoked oysters and saltines.

Read more about The Ordinary →


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Meet Clare Sweeney

A South Carolina native and avid locavore, Clare is always venturing between traveling abroad and her beloved Lowcountry. 

Clare works and plays in downtown Charleston, spending her days...  More About Clare

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