I used to dislike oysters. More accurately, I never knew that I liked oysters. For whatever reason, oysters fell into that category of food that I had never had but nonetheless didn’t like. Burritos and Thai food used to fall in that category too.
I finally first had oysters at a get together at a friend’s 35th birthday at Ti Couz, which has since closed. We were all a few drinks in having waited for a table to be set, so when the suggestion arose that we order some raw oysters, I went along. All eyes were on me as I slurped my first, fully expecting that it would be like eating snot from a rock. I could not have been more wrong.
After the shock from what I had just done subsided, I lingered over the briny liquor that loitered on my tongue. I quickly grabbed a second oyster before they were all claimed to verify that I had not repressed the experience. I hadn’t. After more than 30 years of believing that I would not like oysters, I found that I loved them.
Since then, I’ve had a variety of oysters, both cooked and raw, usually as a treat. I’ve determined that I like West Coast oysters more than East Coast oysters. I also have my go to places for when I have a hankering.
The Marshall Store @ Marshall, CA: Thank goodness they started taking credit cards a few years back because it was always a struggle to stay within the amount of cash you had on hand (no matter how much you got from the ATM along they way) given that you basically would end up ordering everything on the menu, especially during crab season. Though it is a bit of a trek to get there, it is well worth the effort as they do a barbecued oyster that is incomparable. Just make sure to bring layers as you never know when the fog might roll in.
Hog Island Oyster Company @ Ferry Building, San Francisco: The restaurant got so popular that they closed it in 2014 for three months to expand the seating into the adjoining space occupied by Ferry Plaza Seafood. With the original location in Marshall, and now also a location in the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, Hog Island feels a bit corporate especially in comparison to The Marshall Store. But we celebrated our first anniversary at the Ferry Building location so it will always have a place in our hearts even if we never go there anymore.
Sea Salt @ Berkeley: Sadly, Sea Salt is no more. Perhaps it had something to do with the dollar oyster happy hour. It certainly set the standard for happy hour oysters.
Handline @ Sebastopol: Housed in a converted Foster’s Freeze, Handline offers a slew of raw and grilled oysters. The Alta grilled oysters—bacon, wilted greens, and garlic—are among our favorite. Simply order at the counter window and find a seat. Make sure to check out their specials. And the soft serve ice cream. I mean, you have to love a place that has sparkling water on tap.