When enjoying the easy-going fine-dining atmosphere at Ruthie’s, be sure to order appetizers. More specifically, order the oysters. They offer perfectly fried oysters for you to enjoy before your plates of lobster tails, beautiful steaks, prime ribs and more of the chef’s creations hit your table. Don’t forget about Robert’s Buffet while you’re here. Make plans for Saturday nights when all-you-care-to-eat seafood specials are served on the buffet lines and include the classic Oysters Rockefeller on the half shell. Will you need anything else after unlimited plates of this salt-water treasure? Nope!
St. Burch Tavern
127 Iowa Ave, Iowa City
That St. Burch Tavern has a raw bar is all you need to hear if you’re an oyster enthusiast. The focal point of the upstairs main dining room, the icy bar houses selections flown in fresh from both coasts and staff to shuck your oysters to-order. Squirt the lemon wedge, splash the hot sauce or add a bit of ginger and scallion mignonette. Tip back the half shell and slurp the briny gems down. For those not into the raw craze, Burch also makes a mean oyster po’ boy with cornmeal fried oysters. Note: St Burch hosts an oyster festival in late September.
Clinton Street Social Club
18 1/2 S Clinton St, Iowa City
Clinton Street marks yet another spot in the CRANDIC area riding the fresh oyster wave. Above the bars, shops and other restaurants on the street is the social experience you and your seafood-loving buddies are looking for. Clinton Street Social Club serves their oysters on the half shell with a bright lemon-ginger mignonette. You’ll find them on the starters menu, but no one will pass judgement if you make a whole meal out of them. Order them by the half or full dozen and don’t be shy about ordering more. The bubbly in your glass needs a constant partner.
Cobble Hill Eatery & Dispensary
219 2nd St SE, Cedar Rapids
Cobble Hill has a talented kitchen crew that has produced some of the area’s most memorable meals since the first day they opened their doors. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to take the simple route, ordering countless rounds of fresh oysters. Owner Andy Schumacher has given the corridor a lively restaurant with a New York-inspired ambiance. A table full of happy customers are made even happier when enjoying fine wine and fresh oysters at Cobble Hill.
Club 76 at the Lodge
2349 Mehaffey Bridge Rd NE # A, North Liberty
Keep your eyes peeled and mark your calendar for the annual Stouts, Sours and Oysterfest at Club 76! This event is a craft beer tasting paired ingeniously with an oyster lovers dream: raw, fried, sandwiched and bouillabaissed! Sample the unique beers on offer in a commemorative glass with Iowa’s largest state park in full scenic view. Don’t wait until summer to enjoy Lake McBride and this nearby bar; winter is the perfect time to sample some oysters and beers!
LP – Street Food
302 3rd Ave SW, Cedar Rapids
Round up your friends on a Thursday night and wander into Local Pour. The restaurant offers a rotating selection of fresh oysters on the half shell and serves them with their housemade cucumber soy mignonette, kimchi puree and cocktail sauce. Bonus: Thursday evenings also happen to feature half-price bottles of wine, so they’ve created a true haven for some of life’s affordable luxuries.
Iowa City American Legion Post #17
3016 Muscatine Ave, Iowa City
The Iowa City American Legion knows that the family Christmas meal brings out the oyster nostalgia in our home cooking. Each year, in mid-December, the Legion organizes a group order for fresh-packed oyster meat preserved in the precious liquor; perfect for their customers dressings, stews and anything they need to have a tasty holiday season.
Want to see what all the oyster hype is about but are afraid you’ll be pegged as a first-timer? Here’s some quick tips to get you started, but honestly, just take a deep breath and relax. You can’t go wrong when approaching a new dish with an open mind and the desire to learn.
What do they taste like?
Like wine, oysters have a flavor profile that depends on where they’re from, referred to as “terroir.” Most West Coast oysters typically exhibit sweet flavors and finish with melon or cucumber notes. East Coast oysters can vary wildly in flavor based on location. They usually have a smooth teardrop-shaped shell and taste brinier and more savory than West Coast oysters.
Which to choose?
If you’re tasked with making a selection between varieties, don’t be afraid to ask your server for help. They should be able to guide you towards an appropriate choice, suggesting milder, less briny options for newbies or making a recommendation based on an oyster varietal you’ve tried and liked before.
How do I eat these?
Try an oyster “naked” the first time. That is, without any mignonette, horseradish or other sauces masking the true flavor. Use your cute little fork to make sure the oyster is separated from its shell and then tip the shell into your mouth, juice and all. Give it a few chews to experience the full flavor, and then swallow.
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Little Village is an independent media company based in Iowa City. In print since 2001, our mission is to create visibility for the communities, businesses and events that define our region. Support Little Village →