Yes, we know the old maxim about not eating oysters in the summer — but the rule is less about food safety (warm-weather oysters are perfectly safe to eat as long as they’ve been kept cold) as it is about the fact that oysters spawn in the summer, causing a subtle change in their texture that some think is less than ideal. Personally, although we might find some oysters ever so slightly better in the winter, we never say no to a good bivalve, of which there are plenty in our fine city. And on a sweltering day, there’s nothing more wonderful than a plate of icy oysters and a glass of beer.
So we sweated our way around the city this week, slurping at old and new favorites with an eye out for perfect shucking — no ragged edges, no mangled oyster, shells full of cold liquor — wide oyster selections, and engaging atmospheres.
Check out our list, and let us know the places we missed in the comments. Winners straight ahead …
10. Shaffer City Oyster Bar (Old favorite, expensive and fraying but with a huge selection, comfortable atmosphere) 5 West 21st Street, 212-255-9827
9. Ed’s Lobster Bar (Skilled shucking; $1.50 oyster happy hour) 222 Lafayette Street, 212-343-3236
8. Mermaid Inn (Limited but nice selection; try the local Widow’s Holes) 96 Second Avenue, 212-674-5870
7. Marlow & Sons (Small but thoughtful selection) 81 Broadway, Brooklyn, 718-384-1441
6. Cosenza’s Fish Market (Old-world atmosphere; street-side raw bar) 2354 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, 718-364-8510
The top five, right this way …
5. Pearl Oyster Bar (Expert shucking) 18 Cornelia Street, 212-691-8211
4. Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar (Smart, unusual garnishes; pristine oysters) 101 Second Avenue, 212-979-1012
3. Aquagrill (Large selection — everything from salty Onset, Massachusetts, to cucumbery Quilcene, Washington — and excellent shucking done in front of you; quality mignonette) 210 Spring Street, 212-274-0505
2. Blue Ribbon (Perfect shucking; gorgeous, frigid, liquor-filled oysters; simple, cilantro-laced salsa on the side) 119 Sullivan Street, 212-343-0404; 278 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-840-0408
1. Grand Central Oyster Bar (That arched ceiling; the bar; the atmosphere; huge selection, from Rhode Island Beavertails to New Brunswick French Kisses; fair prices) 89 East 42nd Street, 212-490-6653