Take a Washington, D.C. Oyster tour


Sitting on the banks of a river that's part of the world's largest estuary, Washington, D.C. has been an oyster lover's town since dudes were still sporting powdered wigs. There are countless oyster bars, raw bars, and restaurants that offer the briny delicacies. With so many options it's hard to choose. So I've picked 5 of the best, a couple within walking distance or a short cab ride.

Old Ebbit Grill
If you were to tap a random Washintonian walking down Pennsylvania Avenue on the shoulder and ask where you can get some oysters around here, I'd bet you a seafood tower they'd say Old Ebbit Grill. Considered D.C.'s oldest saloon, it's an institution. It's also kind of touristy, but don't let that stop you from getting your half-shell on. Located a couple blocks from the White House, Ebbit's has been serving oysters since Franklin Pierce was president. When was that? Lets just say a long time ago. If you're coming with a large group or can simply throw down a serious amount of seafood, get the Orca Platter. This double decker tower has a whole steamed lobster on the top shelf and 6 Jonah crab claws, 6 clams, 24 oysters, and 12 shrimp chilling on the ground floor. When in Rome drink as the Romans do and order the Bloody Maryland — their take on the classic Bloody Mary sprinkled with spicy Old Bay seasoning and topped with a jumbo shrimp.

Eat the Rich
Don't want to shell out serious cash for oysters? Eat the Rich has a late night happy hour that kicks off at 11 p.m. for a buck each. Don't freak out at the communal seating — heck, this is your chance to try out that new pick-up line on a co-ed oyster lover. Order your new friend a Pisco sour and get started on some Barcat's provided by the Rappahannock Oyster Company. Over 10 years ago Travis Croxton had the cojones to revive his grandfather's defunct oyster beds on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. And now his "bay" oysters fly first class to some of the finest restaurants across the country. Need something more substantive to soak up the booze before you snooze, try the fried oyster sandwich, you'll thank yourself in the morning.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
Strolling down 14th street Northwest it's hard to miss the Pearl Dive Oyster Palace with all the hipsters crowded around its outdoor sidewalk bar. But tucked in the back of the rustic restaurant with walls of peeling plaster and exposed brick is oyster nirvana — the raw bar. Here 5 or 6 lucky people at a time can slurp down Kusshi, Cedar Island, Beavertail, and Duckabush oysters as they watch the shucker work his magic. Local tip: ask the waiter if they have any Old Black Salt oysters in today. These plump, salty and minerally tasting oysters are grown exclusively for the Black Rock Restaurant group, the parent company for Pearl Diver Oyster Palace. Can't stand another damn oyster? Let PDOP's southern roots shine and dive into a bowl of shrimp gumbo with savory Tasso ham and okra over buttered rice.

Hank's Oyster Bar
Located in the trendy DuPont Circle neighborhood, the original Hank's Oyster Bar has a killer happy hour, and not just on oysters. Try a small plate of deviled eggs which are nothing like the ones your granny makes for the church potluck. Nope, Hank's deviled eggs come piled high with buttery lobster meat. Wash it down with a so-called shot dubbed the "Sanquiri" — an addicting concoction of rum, lime and sugar that takes more than one gulp to finish. Besides providing a daily rotation of fresh creamy bivalves, Hank's doesn't disappoint if you're in the mood for something else from the sea. Order a grilled crab cake, so different than your run-of-the-mill fried or broiled variety. And if you happen to be in town around Valentine's Day, get a little naughty and order their one of a kind "aphrodisiac tasting." Shirt and shoes required.

Johnny's Half Shell
Once a favorite of self-important members of Congress and their flocks of staffers on Capitol Hill, Johnny's Half Shell has relocated across town to the funky Adams Morgan neighborhood. While Johnny's may have moved from serving patrons in power ties and pant suits to a more creative class, the menu is still oyster bed solid. Of course Johnny's serves plenty of premium oysters on the half shell - it's in their name! But if you're feeling like some turf, order the dry aged beef ribeye. Add a side of cheesy grits which will make you grin with bliss. If you're stuffed, kick-start the digestive process with a "Brandy Crusta" made with rare Oscalis Alambic brandy and served in a small wine glass garnished with a long lemon peel.





John Hopewell is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post and personal tour guide when family and friends visit.