16 Jan 2023
We’re smack dab in the middle of one of the most fun times in the Lowcountry - oyster season (September through April). Oysters are not only the favorite mollusk around these parts, but they are also a key part of the culture. When in Rome, do as the Romans do (eat pasta, namely cacio e pepe)… and when in the Charleston area, eat oysters. At least in a month with an “r” in it.
Oyster Roasts Rule
The backyard oyster roast is the classic way to experience local oysters, which grow in clusters around here. It’s a perfect bonding experience for old friends and a great way to make new ones.
Basically, you and a bunch of friends/family gather around a communal table with a steaming mound of mollusks. Koozie-covered libations are usually involved. You grab an oyster knife and a glove, take a cluster and start shucking, tossing the shells into the hole in the middle of the table. Enjoy the steamed oysters straight or on saltine crackers with cocktail sauce. Straight is best if they’re fresh, so you can taste the ocean in each bite.
Isle of Palms and Charleston locals love hosting these events during the cold weather months, to celebrate special milestones, or just to get together - no occasion necessary. They’re always a lot of fun.
Kicking it up a Notch
Like tailgating - which in the South has been elevated to an art form - people can get pretty creative with oyster roasts. In fact, some friends recently launched a company making some amazing custom-engraved oyster tables. Their tagline is, “Bringing Luxury to a Coastal Tradition.”
Charleston Oyster Tables are made to order right here in the Lowcountry. They come in three different sizes, in your choice of four wood finishes - Sunlit Walnut, Moonlit Mahogany, Cordovan Leather, and the popular Shou Sugi Ban charred wood look. The tables fold for easy storage, have a hole in the middle perfect for throwing away those shells… and can be engraved with your choice of lettering or logo, perfect for a home, business or special event.
While they were designed to be the ideal surface for a Lowcountry oyster roast, you can also use them for clam bakes, Lowcountry boils (shrimp, corn, potatoes and sausage), game day spreads, beverage or champagne bars, or the world’s most impressive charcuterie board. Check out their Instagram for some fantastic ideas. They even sell lazy Susans to fill in the center hole, to expand the possible uses.
Why not Check out the World’s Largest Oyster Roast?
Local Charleston charities often host oyster roasts during the cold weather months, and it’s a fun way to support good causes while you’re chowing down on these delicacies of the sea.
Your best bet may be the biggest of them all. It takes place just over the Connector from the Isle of Palms, on the grounds of Boone Hall Plantation.
It’s the Lowcountry Oyster Festival, billed as the largest on the planet.
The Oyster Festival takes place on a Sunday in late January, and 2023 marks its 39th year. They’ll be serving up 45,000 pounds of oysters to several thousand hungry folks, along with suitable libations and other food options. Check out entertaining contests like Oyster Shucking and Oyster Eating, plus terrific live music. This year it’s an especially good slate - The Blue Dogs, Uncle Mingo, and the East Coast Party Band.
The festival is also very family friendly, with a large kids’ zone. Proceeds go toward some terrific charities like the Ronald McDonald House, Shriners’ Hospital for Children, and coastal conservation causes. They’ve raised more than $1 million over the years and keep adding to it. Tickets sell fast. Find more information on our Events page.
Oyster Options at Charleston Restaurants
There are a lot of different ways to eat oysters. And let’s face it, not everyone is a fan of raw oysters or even steamed ones.
If you’re new to eating oysters and would like to try them prepared in different ways, you have plenty of options around Charleston. Here’s a quick rundown of some top options.
- Bowen’s Island - 5 minutes from Folly Beach. They host frequent oyster roasts using freshly harvested ones. A very authentic experience, with half trays, full trays, all you can eat, and fried oysters as well. They don’t take reservations, so it’s first come, first served. Read more here.
- Leon’s Oyster Shop, 698 King Street downtown Charleston - It’s right there in the name, and they even have an Oyster Shed out back for special events. Known for their “world famous” signature dish, Char-Grilled Oysters with lemon, parsley, butter & parmesan. They also have Raw Oysters Mignonette, Fried Oysters, and a Crispy Fried Oyster Roll with avocado, chives and comeback sauce. Check them out here.
- 167 Raw Oyster Bar, 193 King Street - Daily specials, Raw Oysters, Oysters French, Crispy Oysters, Oven-roasted Oysters, Oyster Po’ Boy, and Oyster Shooters. It’s an oyster-lovers paradise.
- The Darling Oyster Bar, 513 King Street - Raw Bar with your choice of Single Ladies from Seabrook, Roddy Rocks from St. Helena Island, James River, Beausoleil and Sweet Carolinas; Fried Oyster Basket, or Baked Oysters with your choice of Maitre’d Butter & Bread Crumbs, Alabama White Sauce & Bacon, or Pimento & Sourdough Soppers. Here’s their website.
- The Ordinary, 544 King Street - Curated raw bar options with Single Ladies, SC Sea Clouds and Capers Blades. Also Crispy Oyster Sliders on Hawaiian rolls, and their not-to-be-missed Smoked Oysters with crème fraiche. Yum.
It’s prime time to get your oyster on!
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger