The best oyster bars in LA
L & E Oyster Bar channels the spirit of the sort of old-school oyster shack you might expect to find on a remote oceanfront highway. The place seats no more than 50, and visitors will find an illuminated sign on the wall announcing the day’s haul of fresh oysters. The best way to eat an oyster is, of course, raw. But if you like yours cooked, the kitchen here offers several options, the best of which is simply fried. Try the grilled casino, with butter, bacon and shallots, or a daily special like Tomahawk oysters with harissa. Beyond the namesake bivalves, the rest of the menu is short and succinct: shrimp cocktail, steamed mussels, clam chowder (very good), French fries (excellent), plus a few standard salads and three or four entrées each night. The line-up changes constantly, but some recent standouts have included an excellent kampachi tartare and a very reputable fried oyster po’boy.
LA's seafood guru, chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence, pays homage to his New England roots—his grandfather was a fisherman in Rhode Island—with a modern take on the clam shack. The lofty eatery in the heart of West Hollywood features alfresco dining with indoor and outdoor seating, but if you're here for oysters, grab a spot at the raw bar. To eat, there's a daily selection of oysters and clams served with horseradish and mignonette sauce. You might find oysters from Pickering Passage, Wash., or Ichabod Flat, Mass.; you can also indulge in an oyster shooter, with or without vodka. The chef's choice oyster platter ranges from half a dozen to a full dozen, with each oyster coming from a different place.
Stimulate your senses at one of LA’s most popular seafood restaurants—this time, we're in Koreatown—with a sensory-overload dinner theater: The kitchen sautées in the firing wok, skilled hands furiously shuck bivalves, barmen shake up cocktails and speakers blare 'Top 40' indie rock. There will undoubtedly be a wait, but put in the time and you'll find yourself seated with the ocean at your fingertips. Dig into half a dozen or a dozen oysters from the raw bar, like Kumamoto oysters from Humboldt Bay or Kusshi from Vancouver Island, or opt for the oyster shooter, which comes with uni, a quail egg, ponzu sauce and chives. EMC's $1 oyster specials are legendary: seven days a week, from 4-7pm.
The theme at MessHall, a friendly neighborhood spot in Los Feliz, is glorified summer camp food, with the intention to improve upon, rather than reinvent All-American comfort food favorites—think fried chicken sandwiches, smoked corn fritters and steak tartare tacos wrapped in a crisp Parmesan shell. Oyster fanatics will be happy to know that MessHall has an excellent raw bar, stocked with plenty of bivalves, ceviche, shrimp cocktails and tuna tartare. For the day's best picks, try "3 from the sea"—the chef's daily pick of three oysters for $9.
With a name like Blue Plate Oysterette, there's bound to be a solid selection of bivalves at this charming seafood spot. Offering a mix of indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant hosts a raw bar where you can order oysters on the half shell with homemade cocktail sauce or ceviche style with red onion, lime and cilantro; along with tuna tartar, prawn cocktails and ceviche (mixed or Peruvian). Want to go big? The seafood tower is a shellfish lovers paradise, complete with half of a Maine lobster, oysters, clams, prawns, mussels and more.
David Lentz’s contemporary culinary outpost in Hollywood is where date night and brunch crowds pile in cushioned banquettes against stainless steel countertops (there's a Santa Monica locale, too). There’s no shortage of seafood options with a raw bar of goodies on the half shell and in the shell, along with clams, Maine lobster, marinated mussels, snow crab legs and spiced shrimp. On Mondays, stop by during happy hour for $1 oysters. Of course, another way to enjoy the fruits of the sea is an oyster with an Old Bay–rimmed, vodka chaser, as in the Maryland Mary, a tasty (and eye-opening) weekend cocktail.
Faith & Flower, a contemporary restaurant Downtown that focuses on California cuisine, is a great spot for post-work cocktails or an effective power lunch. It's also a solid spot for oysters; walk in and you'll see a raw bar on your right, where oysters are shucked in droves and layed out in a mouthwatering display. On the menu: a daily selection of a half-dozen oysters accompanied by pink peppercorn mignonette, kanpachi ceviche with Kennebec potato chips and scallop ceviche with taro chips. During social hour (Sun-Thu, 5-6:30pm), oysters are only $1 each—meaning you can splurge on a couple of those fancy cocktails.
This LA seafood institution started at Santa Monica Pier and, more than 70 years later, the retail market and café—now operating blocks from the Pacific—is still family-run, and serves as a one-stop shop for all things seafood. The 60-foot, horseshoe-shaped seafood case boasts every imaginable bivalve, crustacean and finned creature with a daily-changing board that lists fresh catches of the day like sturgeon fillets and spiny lobsters. Grab a seat at the raw bar and dive into oysters ($18, half-dozen; $32, dozen) and Alaskan King Crab legs, paired with a glass of wine or beer. If you can't get enough, stop by the market and stock up on a few pounds to take home with you.
Head to either of Water Grill's two locations—Downtown LA or Santa Monica—and you'll find that the ocean has come directly to you. Sure, it might be pricey, but for oyster fiends it's a bivalve wonderland. The raw bar at this upscale restaurant offers close to 20 different types of oysters from across the country: Rappahannock River, Va.; Puget Sound, Wash.; Milford, Conn.; plus a few Canadian options. Purchase them individually, as a half dozen or a full dozen, with each plate accompanied by fresh horseradish, cocktail and mignonette sauce. Want to go beyond oysters? There are clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, lobster and sea urchin, too, along with iced shellfish platters for those who want a little bit of everything.