Here in New England, we’re lucky to have access to seafood, and we’re #blessed to have dollar oyster deals year-round. With dozens of them gracing restaurant menus every week, it’s prime opportunity for Boston’s oyster eaters to finally discover what oyster farmers have known for years: Winter oysters are even tastier than summer ones.
“Oysters spend the winter living on glycogen they produced and stored all fall. The glycogen, stored in the oyster’s liver, is often thought to provide a ‘sweeter’ taste in the winter months,” says Peter Ciccarelli, of Seabury Point Shellfish. “In addition to being a bit sweeter on the tongue, oysters are at their plumpest through December, having filtered and fed as much as possible in the autumn but not yet depleted of their glycogen store.”
A sampling of oyster trays supports this theory, so the real factor in determining where to eat them is some small differences in price, location, and what kind of ambiance you’re after. Here’s our short list of favorite restaurants to grab buck-a-shucks and better deals around Boston.
The Red House
The deal: 50-cent oysters for your first dozen on Tuesdays through Sundays from noon til 6 p.m.; after your first dozen or after 6 p.m., oysters are $1 each.
The real deal: It’s not the price of the oysters but the environment that makes The Red House one of our go-tos. You can sit at the bar and toss back your Island Creeks or, if you’re a bit chilled and it isn’t too crowded yet, you can slurp them at one of a handful of small tables in front of a wood-burning fireplace. On a day with just the right amount of chill, it doesn’t even matter if the oysters are any good as long as you get to eat them by the fire. But they are good.
98 Winthrop St., Cambridge, MA 02138, 617-576-0605
The deal: $1 oysters on Mondays from 5:30 p.m. “until the last oyster is shucked.”
The real deal: To be sure, Rialto has a bunch of oyster regulars, but because of its location within Harvard Square’s Charles Hotel, there are a lot of interesting wild cards, and you may get to sit next to one of them and eavesdrop on their conversations about Greek politics and/or wind up drinking ouzo with them over a dozen. We go for their unique accompaniments, which have included a tangy tomato-basil pesto and a roasted corn mignonette with shallot.
One Bennett St., Cambridge, MA 02138, 617-661-5050
Matt Murphy’s Pub
The deal: Free oysters on Mondays from 5 til 7 p.m.
The real deal: This is a spot where you’ll get significantly more than you pay for—maybe even more than you can take. Inside, friendly barstaff shuck Bluepoints, which pair nicely with just about anything from the pub’s lengthy list of beers on tap. If you linger long enough, you may find yourself in the bizarre position of having to turn away free oysters by the half-dozen. Tough life, we know.
14 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 02445, 617-232-0188
The deal: $1 oysters every night from 5 til 7 p.m.
The real deal: Along with big brothers Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard, Lineage is linked directly to the supplier, which makes for great dollar oysters every night of the week, but we really love this Brookline spot for its signature cocktails, priced right. The bar offers a toasty view of the open hearthfire that churns out the restaurant’s breads and pizzas. Freshly baked brioche-y rolls are served hot—along with a tiny square ceramic tub of creamy butter—to every customer who sets ass on barstool.
242 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 02446, 617-232-0065