The 10 Best Oyster Bars in New York City

Head for the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station at rush hour and pair your meal with a good dose of people-watching
Head for the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station at rush hour and pair your meal with a good dose of people-watching | © Michael Freeman / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Dana deLaski
15 September 2020

Who doesn’t love slurping a good oyster? They’re salty, smooth and come with an innately sublime feeling of indulgence. They’re luxurious, best enjoyed with a cold glass of bubbly, white wine or a cocktail, and always seem to signify some kind of celebration. NYC of course has endless options for dining, so it’s no surprise that it’s home to some fabulous oyster bars. From casual neighborhood clam shacks to swanky bars serving champagne and caviar, here’s a guide to some of the best places to slurp oysters in NYC.

Grand Army

Cocktail Bar, Bar, Charcuterie, American, $$$
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In the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn you’ll find Grand Army, a stunning cocktail and oyster bar. The bar was recently opened by four guys who’ve been in the business for ages, so even before it the lights were on, expectations were high. The drinks are inspired by old American railway lines, the food menu consists of unique bites, and the oysters come with eye-droppers of the usual oyster condiments. Needless to say, Grand Army lives up to its much-deserved hype.

Maison Premiere

Bar, Restaurant, American, Seafood, Gluten-free, $$$
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Maison Premiere is as good as it gets. The oysters are amazing, the seafood towers are stunning, and the cocktails will blow your mind. There’s also absinthe, which is hard to find, and the staff is knowledgable and friendly. Diners pay a price for the experience, but the quality of everything on the menu is superb and certainly worth the money.

Littleneck

Restaurant, Bar, Seafood, $$$
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Located in Goawnus, Brooklyn, Littleneck is the casual, cool raw bar of your dreams. It’s the perfect neighborhood beach shack in the heart of Brooklyn, but don’t worry, it’s not getting its oysters from the Gowanus canal on which it sits. You’ll only be served the freshest selection of clams and oysters here, in an equally fresh and friendly setting.

Greenpoint Fish and Lobster

Market, Restaurant, Bar, Seafood, $$$
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Split between a fish market and a sit-down restaurant, Greenpoint Fish & Lobster will suit all of your seafood needs. You can grab your shopping up front and bring it home to cook, or take a seat in the casual bar/restaurant and have the chefs prepare your fish for you. If you choose the latter, you’ll be treated to the freshest oysters, fantastic fish tacos, curry mussels and lobster rolls. It’s the kind of neighborhood spot that everyone hopes to count on around the corner.

Mermaid Inn

Bar, Seafood, American, $$$
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The oyster happy hours at the Mermaid Inn have become famous, and luckily they have three convenient locations around Manhattan. Come early for happy hour or expect to wait, or skip happy hour all together and come when it’s less busy. Sometimes the latter option is preferable if you want to take advantage of the excellent outdoor seating.

Sel Rrose

Bar, Cocktail Bar, French, $$$
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A classy cocktail spot with a killer raw bar, Sel Rrose makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. While popular, the space is large enough and it’s managed to stay under the radar, so it’s usually easy to get a table, and during the warm months there’s prime outdoor seating. Order a cocktail or a glass of champagne, a dozen oysters, and realize that all is well in the world.

Upstate

Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
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A super low-key neighborhood spot in the East Village, Upstate is the sort of place you could easily walk past if you weren’t looking. It’s a tiny spot with a small menu – in addition to oysters, there’s usually one fish special, one scallop special and a shellfish pasta: you really can’t go wrong. It’s also a craft beer bar, so be sure to get a cold one, and note that despite being small and easy to miss, locals know about it and line up early. There are no reservations, so sometimes that means a wait.

Grand Central Oyster Bar

Bar, Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
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Grand Central Oyster Bar is iconic and has managed to stay super-classy despite being located inside one of NYC’s most popular tourist attractions. Come here for the ambience and the architecture but, of course, stay for the oysters. Consider coming during rush hour when commuters are flitting to and from trains – the people watching is unbeatable.

Cull and Pistol

Bar, Market, Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
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Chelsea Market can be crowded and overwhelming, but respite can be found at its oyster and raw bar, Cull & Pistol. It’s connected to The Lobster Place which is NYC’s largest purveyor of live lobsters, so you know they’ll have lots of variety and optimal freshness. The place isn’t flashy, trendy or cool, but the oysters are simple and perfect.

Grand Banks

Bar, Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
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If you’re looking for ambiance, you can’t do better than Grand Banks – NYC’s oyster bar on a sailboat. Located on the west side of Downtown Manhattan, there’s no better place to catch the sunset on the water while slurping oysters and sipping rosé. It’s a classy place with a good-looking crowd, but if you don’t come early expect to wait a bit. It’s all more than worth it, though, as eating oysters on the water is an experience everyone should have.
These recommendations were updated on September 15, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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