Not only is Fort Worth entering rodeo season, and getting its first taste of winter weather (you can set your clock by it — rodeo equals winter in Cowtown), it’s also smack dab in the middle of oyster season. That’s right, January’s cold waters mean prime oyster eating. No one can help having oysters on the brine. . . I mean brain.
Though some have questioned the wisdom of eating oysters at all in land-locked North Texas, no longer are local foodies limited to only oysters harvested in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to the miracle of refrigeration. These days oyster fanatics are being treated to oysters flown in fresh daily from the finest oyster beds and farms in North America.
The next time you get a craving and set out in search of these bivalve beauties, here are Fort Worth’s 15 Best Restaurants for Oysters:
Waters – Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine
Not only do the oyster shells hang from the ceiling like artwork, this restaurant is the go-to spot for the freshest oysters flown in daily. The Dirty Dozen at Waters Texas brings an oyster flight like none other. We’re talking about 12 varieties from Blue Point and Chesapeake Bay, Miyagi, Olympia and Samish Bay getting flown in fresh daily ― and presented with chef Jon Bonnell’s tasting notes.
Pro tip: This oysters treat is only $19 during happy hour.
Chef Victor Villareal is having fun at his snug Spanish-inspired seafood restaurant on Race Street. That includes plating with the freshest oysters he can find. The oysters are served simply on ice or topped with a special mignonette sauce of the chef’s choosing.
Recent offerings at La Onda have included Foxley River’s, Savage Blonde’s from Canada and Hama Hama’s from Lilliwaup, Washington.
While cold water oysters on the half shell are always on the menu from Pacific Table’s raw bar, I crave the plump fried oysters too. These oysters are topped with a bright blend of shallots and greens and served with a grilled lemon. They make for the ideal starter.
Lovers of Cajun style fried oysters turn to Tributary Cafe on Race Street for the good stuff. You can enjoy the crispy fried oysters on a classic Po Boy sandwich with tartar sauce, pickles and all the fixings, or as part of the larger seafood platter along with fried fish and shrimp.
You will need a few friends to splurge on what Capital Grille calls the Grand Plateau. This $115 seafood feast is filled with jumbo lump crab, North Atlantic lobster, shrimp cocktail and fresh shucked oysters on the half shell.
The raw bar at this classy steakhouse will have your eyes popping. It is filled with king crab and fresh seafood daily. The freshly shucked oysters at Wicked Butcher are neatly arranged in rows, and served with house made cocktail sauce, horseradish and minus-8 mignonette sauce.
Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
This high-end seafood chain always has fresh oysters at the ready. At Eddie V’s you can choose East Coast oysters such as Bluepoint, Sea Kist, East Beach Blonde, or Malpeque Bay oysters. Or you can turn to the Gulf of Mexico. All the oysters are served on ice with mignonette sauces and priced per piece.
J&J Oyster Bar
J&J’s is the oldest of old school oyster bars in Fort Worth. It opened in the 1970s and is now situated along University near the Museum District. J&J Oyster Bar is where I ate my first raw oyster on a saltine cracker with a dash of Tabasco. Thanks dad for introducing me.
Regulars come back for the crispy fried oyster basket, served with those buttery, slender hushpuppies and fries.
The most famous appetizer on the B&B Butchers’ menu is really a melange of meats. Dubbed the Carpet Bagger, these four fried oysters are presented inside an oyster shell, but the fried oysters are skewered together with a slice of house-cured bacon and ribeye steak. Add a little Roquefort cheese sauce and a dash of siracha, and you’ll be in oyster heaven.
Known for its contemporary spin on ranch cooking, Michaels Cusine serves a unique Ranch Oysters Rockefeller. It consists of six Texas gulf oysters on the half shell, topped with an anisette seasoned poblano spinach cream and a bit of parmesan cheese. Then, they’re baked to a golden brown.
This soon-to-open (early February) restaurant from chef Ben Merritt aims to be a Gulf Coast seafood paradise. The selection of grilled oysters at The Fitzgerald is awe inspiring. Get them prepared traditional style with butter, garlic and parmesan; Kimchi Butter style with a little of bit spice and umami flavor; or cheesy bacon jalapeno style topped with Manchego cheese sauce, bacon and jalapeno.
Hatsuyuki Handroll Bar
Always serving the freshest seafood, simply prepared the Japanese way ― where you can taste each element — you never know what the chef’s selection will be at Hatsuyuki Handroll. One recent appetizer called the oyster trio featured a tour de oyster. From plump and clean Nova Scotia oysters to savory and earthy Fisher’s Island oysters, and mild and sweet Kumamoto oysters.
Located in Waterside, Tricky Fish serves fried oysters with a bit of a twist. They call it the Fried Oyster BLT, which means lettuce and tomato, a classic tartar sauce and a hearty (and surprising) smear of sweet bacon jam. Trust me, it works. This Fort Worth restaurant also serves oysters on the half shell if you prefer.
Bonnell’s Fine Texas
One of Jon Bonnell’s classics, his Oyster’s Texafeller at Bonnell’s Fine Texas never fails. In fact, the longtime Fort Worth chef has shared his recipe far and wide over the years. It calls for marinating the oysters in a buttermilk/hot sauce bath, the same as you would before frying a chicken. Then coat with creole seasoning and fry them up.
The oysters are served atop a mixture of Tasso ham dices and wilted spinach, topped with fresh hollandaise.
Fort Worth celebrity chef Tim Love gets campy with his grilled New Orleans style oysters at his outdoorsy, patio friendly Woodshed Smokehouse. Love serves the oysters with smoky, grilled camp bread, which goes perfectly with the relaxed patio vibe and crackling fire pits of Woodshed.
You can order the oysters per piece as an appetizer, or add a couple to your meal.
After all, it’s oyster season. One of the best times of the foodie calendar.