Shell Gains: Pearls of wisdom from a local oyster expert — plus five places to eat oysters in St. Louis

St. Louis might be a long way from the nearest ocean, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy oysters from both coasts. "We sell quite a bit," says Phil Nekic, wholesale manager at Bob's Seafood in University City. "We have a select group of restaurants that use oysters year after year."

Retail customers can expect to find up to a dozen different varieties of oysters on hand at Bob's, though Nekic notes that Blue Points "have always been the standard," and that, in general, East Coast oysters outsell those from the Pacific northwest. Still, Nekic finds that customers are seeking unique items and are willing to take on less familiar varieties.

You can find oysters on the half-shell, fried and baked at numerous St. Louis restaurants. Here, a sampling of our favorites:

Broadway Oyster Bar
736 South Broadway; 314-621-8811
www.broadwayoysterbar.com
This Cajun-Creole restaurant, located in a 150-year-old building on the southeastern cusp of downtown, is a popular spot before and after Cardinals games. Here you can indulge yourself on oysters on the half-shell — $1 apiece from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri. — classic oysters Rockefeller or hip oyster shooters. Oysters are also available sautéed in a grinder or fried in a classic New Orleans po' boy.

Oceano Bistro
44 North Brentwood Drive, Clayton; 314-721-9400
www.oceanobistro.com
A gorgeous Clayton bistro that's one of St. Louis' premier seafood restaurants. Though the menu offers many intriguing takes on fish and shellfish alike, the oysters are treated with the simple reverence they deserve, a half-dozen served on the half-shell with a cucumber-chile mignonette. The restaurant's seafood-friendly wine list offers numerous pairing opportunities, from a Champagne splurge to an eminently affordable Spanish albariño.

Herbie's Vintage 72
405 North Euclid Avenue; 314-769-9595
www.herbies.com
Was there a more iconic Central West End experience than slurping down a half-dozen raw oysters at Herbie Balaban's namesake restaurant? Last fall Monarch owners Aaron Teitelbaum and Jeff Orbin reopened Balaban's as Herbie's Vintage 72. Classic dishes are back — including oysters on the half-shell. (See this week's Café for more on Herbie's.)

SqWires
1415 South 18th Street; 314-865-3522
www.sqwires.com
The RFT tabbed SqWires as our Best Seafood Restaurant in 2008, and the oysters were a big reason why: "Every afternoon at happy hour, you can wander in and purchase a freshly shucked oyster or two or three for a dollar a pop." A half-dozen oysters on the half-shell will set you back $13 during this Lafayette Square favorite's regular hours; for $20, you can have a chilled seafood platter with oysters, mussels, shrimp and more.

Schlafly Stout & Oyster Festival/ Schlafly Tap Room
2100 Locust Street; 314-241-2337
www.schlafly.com
Schlafly's annual Stout & Oyster Festival is the pinnacle of oyster worship in St. Louis. For two glorious days, you can enjoy the best oysters served raw and/or cooked, as well as fantastic Nitro Irish, Oatmeal and Kaldi's Coffee Stout from the city's biggest non-Belgian brewery. Highlights include an oyster identification and shucking contest with star oyster shuckers from around the nation. It takes place from 5 p.m. to midnight on Friday, March 6, and from noon to midnight on Saturday March 7. Click here for this week's feature story, "How Do You Like Your Oysters?"

 
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