America is experiencing an oyster renaissance, said Katy Keiffer in FoodArts.com. Thanks to “the miracle of aquaculture”—plus 40 years of federal clean-water regulations—oyster production has been growing in some coastal states by 20 percent annually for a decade. While big-city oyster bars are popping up like it’s 1899, a few out-of-the-way operations are giving shellfish fans front-row seats on a great comeback story.
Merroir Topping, Va. The family-run Rappahannock Oyster Co. has been hauling mollusks out of Chesapeake Bay for a century, but two young cousins are the first members of the clan to actively promote oyster reproduction. Travis and Ryan Croxton now have oyster bars in Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C., but home turf is this outdoor tasting bar on a “spectacular” site at the mouth of the Rappahannock River. 784 Locklies Creek Rd., (804) 758-2871
Matunuck Oyster Bar South Kingstown, R.I. Local boy Perry Raso needs just seven acres off the deck of his restaurant to produce half a million oysters a year. He also sells “the best ‘stuffies’ in the state—quahogs stuffed with a savory mix of chopped clams, croutons, and Portuguese chouriço.” 629 Succotash Rd., (401) 783-4202
The Boat Marshall, Calif. Maybe it’s because the Hog Island Oyster Co. is busy supplying so many high-end restaurants in California that its picnic-table oyster bar on Tomales Bay is open only four days weekly. But get there while the sun’s high and you can grill your own while enjoying local wines and cheeses. 20215 Hwy. 1, (415) 663-9218