Taste an oyster and you can taste its origins. That quality is sometimes called the merroir, which is like the terroir, but for oysters.
Eating bivalves raw is the easiest way to appreciate their subtle flavor. We like to follow the advice of Old Mr. Flood, who believed that raw oysters could cure any illness: “And don’t put any of that red sauce on them, that cocktail sauce, that mess, that gurry," he said, according to the late Joseph Mitchell, who chronicled the fictional New Yorker’s love of fresh seafood.
But we get it, raw oysters aren’t for everyone. Fortunately, Baltimore area restaurants offer the following excellent oyster dishes to allow the raw-phobic to get in on the fun.
Cornmeal-fried oysters at Charleston
The crispy nuggets of cornmeal fried goodness are regular features on the menu at Cindy Wolf’s Harbor East eatery, and likely shall remain so until the end of time. Served with lemon and cayenne mayonnaise, they’re just the thing to whet your appetite as part of the restaurant’s multi-course tasting menu ($79-$124).
1000 Lancaster St., Harbor East. 410-332-7373. charlestonrestaurant.com
Oyster stew at True Chesapeake
This creamy bisque-like soup ($13) was one of our favorite items at the Jones Falls area restaurant during a visit last fall; it’s still on the menu. Seasoned with bacon, potatoes, salsify root and tarragon, it’s an inventive spin on an Eastern Shore classic and the perfect cold weather appetizer.
Whitehall Mill, 3300 Clipper Mill Road. 410-913-6374. truechesapeake.com
Oyster po’ boy at Creole Soul
Nola knows oysters. And the Creole Soul co-founder and chef Shunquita “Chef Que” Neal know Nola cuisine. Her fried oyster po’ boy ($18), topped with a delicious remoulade, is one of the tastiest items you can have for lunch at R. House.
301 W. 29th St., Remington. 410-864-9839. creolesoulrestaurant.com
Grilled oysters at Urban Oyster
Founder Jasmine Norton has been working hard to create oyster lovers out of oyster haters, one charred, cheesy bivalve at a time. We’re especially fond of her “BBC” oysters, topped with bacon, barbecue and cheddar. ($18 for 6).
1704 Whetstone Way, Locust Point. 443-948-5898. theurbanoyster.com.
Roasted oysters at Dylan’s Oyster Cellar
The trendy Hampden corner spot carries an enviable assortment of raw oysters that allow you to taste the waters of places as far flung as Washington state, Alaska and Prince Edward Island. But their ($15) roasted oysters are amazing, too. Butter, lemon, hot sauce, breadcrumbs and a few minutes in the oven is all it takes to make this delicious appetizer.
3601 Chestnut Ave., Hampden. 443-853-1952. dylansoyster.com