A guide to New England oysters
I would be lying if I said that great seafood wasn’t a big part of why I wanted to move from the Midwest to the East Coast for college. There are endless options when it comes to oyster bars in Boston and they serve amazing fresh oysters from all around New England. Each type has its own unique taste influenced by the waters they are raised in. New England oysters are classified as Virginica oysters and are saltier than Pacific oysters and have a sharper taste. Here are several popular types from Massachusetts and beyond:
Duxbury oysters come from Duxbury Island Creek. Not ideal for the beginner, these oysters are extremely briny due to the cold and salty water from the bottom of the ocean and have a delicious, buttery aftertaste. For those that love oysters, these are considered the cream of the crop.
Wellfleet are Cape Cod oysters that are both sweet and salty, which makes them some of the most popular oysters on the East Coast. They are plump and creamy with a clean aftertaste.
WiAnno oysters (also from Cape Cod) are raised in protected waters and thus generally have a cleaner taste and grow larger. Other than that, however, they are very similar to Wellfleets.
Blue Point oysters hail from Long Island and are probably the most popular New England oyster. While retaining some the classic saltiness of Atlantic oysters, they have a considerable amount of meat and not too much brine. These are the perfect starter if you have never tried oysters before.
Quonset Point oysters from Narragansett Bay, RI are small but known for being mild yet briney. They are some of the cleaner tasting oysters and the level of saltiness really depends on the season.
Fresh oysters in Boston usually cost about $2.50 each, but it really depends on the type you’re getting. Keep your eye out for oyster specials! On Friday nights at Pigalle (75 Charles St. S, just off the green line at Arlington) you can get Blue Point oysters for just a dollar each from 5:00 to 10:30 with the traditional cocktail sauce as well as a delicious cucumber and tomato mignonette. This is a great way to try oysters for the first time. Just grab it with your oyster fork, garnish it if you’d like, pop it in your mouth and chew. If you want to get some of the sea water, you can pick the shell up and pour the oyster and brine into your mouth. The rest of the menu is expensive, but if you sit at the bar you can just order oysters or try some of the cheaper options off of the bar menu (I highly recommend the truffle cheese fries!).
If you are willing to spend a little more and want to try a few types of oysters, check out Island Creek Oyster Bar (500 Commonwealth Ave. right next to the Kenmore stop on the green line). They serve oysters from all over Massachusetts as well as other New England oysters and several from Washington. If you are new to oysters, the Kumamoto is a great one to start with (at Island Creek it comes from Puget Sound, WA)—they’re sweet with a slightly nutty taste and not much of the brine that characterizes their New England counterparts.