For bonafide oyster lovers, nothing beats throwing back a juicy dozen with a cold cocktail or glass of wine. These briny bivalves are fresh, light, and deliciously rewarding either as a snack or appetizer.
Despite the rising price of oysters due to inflation and pandemic-related stock issues, many North Shore restaurants currently offer fresh-shucked oysters at happy-hour prices. Here are several spots where you can satisfy your hankering on the half shell.
Tuscan Sea Grill & Bar, Newburyport
From now until the end of May, Newburyport’s Tuscan Sea Grill & Bar overlooking the Merrimack River offers two-buck shucks (instead of $3.50) every Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. “We offer about five different varieties a night and are getting them from New Hampshire’s Great Bay, the Cape area of Massachusetts, and occasionally Maine,” says David Crinieri, culinary director for Tuscan Brands. “We’re also offering some nicely priced wines that complement the oysters.” In addition to a Bisson Bianco Fizzante, an effervescent Italian white with hints of green apple, the restaurant is pouring Champagne Moutard Crande Cuveé filled with notes of citrus and blueberry.
“Bubbles and oysters are a great pair,” says Crinieri, explaining that the fizz refreshes and aerates the palate. Their two other oyster-friendly pairings include a dry Italian rosé, Cantina Montaribaldi’ Sigiuja’ Rosato, and lively Mastrobernardino Greco filled with tropical fruits and white flowers. Should you miss the happy-hour oysters, don’t fret. You still can get them at market price, along with other raw bar nibbles, including clams, crudo, shrimp cocktail, and, soon sushi.
38R Merrimac St., Newburyport, 978-465-2211, tuscanseagrillbar.com
Elm Square Oyster Co., Andover
For the past couple of years, Andover’s Elm Square Oyster Co. has been offering $1.49 oysters (versus $3.50) every Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Each week executive chef Michael Sherman picks one oyster out of the six or so the restaurant offers to serve during happy hour. “We often offer Beausoleil from New Brunswick, Canada, because they’re a medium-size oyster and really approachable,” he says. “They’re good for people who want to try an oyster for the first time and delicious enough for those who order, like, 100 oysters—and we get these tables of three and they’ll just keep ordering a dozen, after a dozen, after a dozen, after a dozen.” Sherman sources his oysters from New Brunswick down to Rhode Island, including many from small farms in Maine.
Oyster-friendly sips he recommends include the restaurant’s zippy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Von Trapp Pilsner, and Spring Gin and Tonic enlivened with pink grapefruit juice and thyme simple syrup. When Happy Hour ends, the restaurant offers market price oysters. They also serve Oysters Rockefeller and plenty of raw bar offerings, including the shellfish platter heaped with oysters, smoked fish, crudo, ceviche, clams and shrimp. “If you’re into oysters,” says Sherman, “it’s quite the upgrade.”
2 Elm Square, Andover, 978-470-2228, elmsquareoysterco.com
Brine in Newburyport offers dollar oysters every Thursday evening—from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. until Memorial Day and then from 8 p.m. 10 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. “We offer five types of oysters on a card and four of them are market price and one is the dollar oyster,” says executive chef Justin Horyn. “I try to get a nice variety of oysters—from Canada when the season is right, the west coast, Duxbury, and Maine.”
Horyn’s drink of choice with the bivalves is either Champagne or a vodka soda.
“The bubbles help bring out the other flavors of the oyster, whether it’s hints of cucumber or a buttery sweetness,” he says. In addition to fresh oysters Brine always has its signature poached egg topped with house-made bacon, salsa verde and fried oysters.
17 State St., Newburyport, 978-358-8479, brineoyster.com
Tonno Gloucester offers Happy Hour oysters seven days a week for a dollar each (versus $3.50). You can get them Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. “We typically have two oysters on our menu at all times so people can choose which one they want for a dollar,” says executive chef Tony Curtis. “We typically have Wellfleets, Cotuits and a lot from Prince Edward Island. We also keep a couple of more types in the back in case someone wants to try a different kind of oyster.” In addition to the happy-hour oysters, Tonno offers multiple deeply-discounted happy-hour bar bites, including roasted oysters with chorizo butter, fried calamari, various sliders and arancini.
Curtis suggests pairing the mollusks with Champagne, a Prosecco cocktail, or white wine. “I always go with Pinot Grigio, which has a little sweetness that mixes nicely with the oysters, particularly the buttery ones from Prince Edward Island and Wellfleet.”
2 Main St., 978-879-4795, tonnorestaurant.com
Full-priced oysters with free water views
+ Enjoy views over Salem Harbor, while savoring oysters on the patio at Salem’s Finz Seafood & Grill.
+ Savor vistas over Pavilion Beach and Gloucester Harbor while slurping down bivalves on the deck outside 1606 Restaurant & Oyster Bar at Gloucester’s Beauport Hotel.
+ Look across Nahant Bay with views of the Boston skyline, while enjoying fresh-shucked mollusks at Swampscott’s Mission on the Bay.
+ Soak up views of the Merrimack River over a platter of oysters at Newburyport’s Sea Level Oyster Bar.