Chefs Explain How to Pick a Perfect Oyster

A guide to making the world your… well, you know

It’s easy to slurp down a dozen oysters without a thought as to where those bracing bivalves originated or how they made the trip. Southern California isn’t known as an oyster hot-bed (yet, at least), which means those Belons, Naked Cowboys, and Kumamotos are most often flown in to stock L.A.’s best raw bars.

Cousins Travis and Ryan Croxton, who just opened Rappahannock Oyster Bar at the ROW DTLA complex, have a leg up on most shuckers: Their family has been farming oysters in the Chesapeake Bay since the 1890s. “We do more than carry oysters,” says Travis. “We have our shipping down to a science and can get them here in less than 18 hours out of the water.”

As for Atlantic or Pacific? It’s not exactly Biggie versus Tupac. Each region offers unique flavors, so go by taste rather than geographic allegiance. Here are four varieties to try, selected by the city’s master shuckers.

Ari Kolender of Hayden

Pick: Eastern oysters from South Carolina. “Charleston waters are insanely briny, so the oyster captures the distinct ‘merroir’”—short for marine terroir—“of the Low Country.”

Brandon Gray of Cape Seafood and Provisions

Pick: Barnstables from Cape Cod. “They have a moderate brine with almost a nutty flavor to the liquor”—the flavorful liquid inside the shell. “Perfect for beginners or connoisseurs.”

Ray Hayashi of Fishing with Dynamite

Pick: Pacific Golds from Morro Bay.“These have a mild brininess with a full seaweed finish. Light and crisp.”

Travis Croxton of Rappahannock Oyster Bar

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Pick: Rappahannock River oysters from Virginia. “Our signature oyster variety. Sweet, buttery, and not overwhelmingly salty.”

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