Yeah, we all know the old rule about only eat oysters during the "R" months. That's because the water is cold enough that they're done spawning, thus done with being "milky,"and now sport a clean, intense flavor.
You'll find local oysters from the waters of NC esp. along the Outer Banks, near Wanchese, Stumpy Point, Crab Slough and other points in the Pamlico Sound. They're making a bit of a comeback in NC, due to efforts at restoration and cleaning up pollutants.
Buy them by the bag full and steam or roast them yourself. Need instructions? Check out THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, where I tell you how.
Or try them lightly fried - one of my fav's - at Basnight's Lone Cedar on the causeway between Manteo and Nags Head. They'll also steam them.
OYSTER BARSMy favorite Oyster Bar is Sunny Side, in Williamston, off HWYs 13 & 17, just off HWY 64, on the way to the Outer Banks. It's in an old building that doesn't look like much. You enter into the main bar area, where you can belly up and order a cold brew while listening to live bands on weekend nights, and while you're waiting for your coveted stool in the BACK room, where the U-shaped oyster bar is. Look over into the middle, where the half dozen black shuckers continue to work as they have for dozens of years, and you'll find cedar shavings on the floor. Ordered by the bucketfuls, the oysters are steamed out back, dumped in the trough in front of you, and opened by your own personal shucker, as fast as you can slurp 'em down. Bowls of hot sauce and hot butter are there for the dipping, too.
Those shuckers are full of stories. Just get them to talking, and you'll have a belly full and a good time. They'll even sign their photos on your placemat. 1102 Washington St., Williamston, www.sunnysideoysterbar.com, (252) 792-3416.
Raleigh and Cary Oyster Bars
The 42nd Street Oyster Bar on the corner of Jones and West Streets in Raleigh has been around since 1931. Updated, it's a lively place on weekend nights, with a true bar scene and live music. But you can still sit at the stainless steel bar or nearby counter and enjoy buckets of steamed oysters and a cold beer. At weekday lunch, you're likely to see politicians or businessmen slurping down oysters while ironing out details that will affect you somehow. www.42ndstoysterbar.com, (919) 831-2811.
Tony's Bourbon Street Oyster Bar in Cary, at the MacGregor Village shopping center, has a great bar scene as well. You have to sit at the bar in back to get steamed oysters, where your every need will be taken care of, from a cold brew to melted butter to cocktails sauce and crackers. Lively music, and a dance floor, makes this a very fun place to seek the bivalve on weekends. www.tonysbourbonstreet.com, (919) 462-6226.
Got a favorite? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
edible Piedmont is a new quarterly publication that "celebrates local foods, from the plateau to the coast." You'll find it, for free right now, at Whole Foods, Southern Things and NOFO, and at some farmers markets and vineyards. Check out my article about oysters in the Winter issue, with a recipe for Ocracoke Oyster Stew & Grits from my OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, as well as a primer on roasting oysters.