If oysters are best eaten during the cold months, before they go to spawn from May to August, then it's the last call for prime, East Coast oysters about now. The mouthwatering mollusks are on the menus of too many restaurants to name, but we've narrowed down the field to those which really specialize in the art of selecting, shucking, and serving them ice-cold. A real New York institution, the oyster bar was among the first types of eating establishments in the city – and it was one of the first street foods, too. The borough's shores were so rife with oysters that they were often served at an all-you-can-eat price. Nowadays, freshly-shucked half-shells command a pricier sophistication, but there's a mini-Renaissance of neo-oyster bars in Brooklyn that evoke this earlier heyday. Here are some of our favorites. Check back on Monday for a list of trusted fishmongers to buy oysters from to shuck yourself.
10. Five Leaves
Greenpoint's best neighborhood restaurant is a reasonably-priced cafe affair — with luscious fresh oysters. Served on the half shell with a piquant rice wine mignonette, or "flash-fried" with smoky aioli and cucumber relish, the oysters are not the sole attraction of Five Leaves, but they help reel in its antiquated nautical theme.
9. Henry Public
A tidy menu of "hamburger sandwiches," bar snacks, and oysters on the half shell makes this Boerum Hill restaurant a timeless hit. With seldom a vegetable on its menu, this is gentleman's fare, at its barest essentials, and you can wipe off that brine on your mustache after sucking down several East Coast oyster varieties.
Fried or fresh oysters every day tip off this South Park Slope's eclectic, yet classics-filled menu. Snack on these with just cocktails or house-made infusions in a fancy setting for a taste of old-Brooklyn charm.
7. Blue Ribbon Brooklyn
The third installment of the Blue Ribbon restaurant empire has kept its formula fresh by focusing on quality. Drawing the obvious connection between Japanese sushi bars and American oyster bars, it fuses the two invisibly so there's a platter of half-shells with lemon wedges to start off your fishy meal.
The Gowanus seafood shack most renowned as "that restaurant that got funded by Kickstarter" also has generous fresh oyster varieties. Both East Coast and West Coast daily oysters and, appropriately, littleneck clams are served on the half shell every day. If only they'd thought to eschew the European mignonette for plain lemons to serve them with, in keeping with its New England concept.
5. Prime Meats
The handsome, German-affected restaurant in Carroll Gardens has similarly well-dressed oysters: a cocktail sauce that isn't too sweet, freshly grated horseradish, lemon and mignonette, all arranged on an ice bed. Not that the oysters themselves, clean and fresh, and of limited seasonal variety, need much help.
This classic steak and oyster bar on Vanderbilt Ave. does it the old-fashioned way: inexpensive and plentiful oysters. There's a $1 happy hour every day for local Blue Points; in addition, a daily selection of 4-5 other varieties is split into two categories: West Coast and East Coast. There's no reason not to taste them all to decide on your favorites.
3. Walter Foods & Walter's
Walter Foods brought class to Williamsburg's not-so-Grand Street, and followed it with a slightly more expansive rendition of the New York restaurant of a certain era in Fort Greene with Walter's. The sister restaurants both have fresh, fresh oysters of interesting variety, but Walter's has raw seafood platters with chef's selections named for famed Walters, such as The Whitman.
2. Maison Premiere
If oysters are what you seek, here you shall find them. The quivering little pods of silver jelly are its raison d'être, if not its uber-precious mystique. With an endless selection of oysters, absinthes, spirits, chilled crustaceans, and meticulously dated decor, Maison Premiere is more like an oyster bar funhouse that you ride through, rather than a neighborhood restaurant where you become part of the scene.
1. Marlow & Sons
Sorry, everyone else, but this place kind of nailed the whole pre-Industrial Brooklyn oyster bar nostalgia thing first. And it's still doing it just right. Focusing on fresh, East Coast oysters of several varieties (from Rhode Island's Rome Points to Virginia's Sting Rays), here you can get your oyster education without even trying. Similarly, the cozy restaurant boasts a vast selection American artisanal cheeses, wines and beers, and seasonal dishes every day.