I love my oysters two ways. My first preference is steamed, or as we refer to it here in the South Carolina Low Country as, “roasted” and secondly, raw on the half shell. The oysters that are harvested and enjoyed around Charleston are know as the Eastern Oyster, or Crassostrea Virginica. Other common names include Atlantic Oyster, American Oyster, or Virginia Oyster. Crassostrea Virginica rarely grow in clusters, but in South Carolina, this is their predominant formation.
The long spawning season here in South Carolina cause these oysters to grow on top of one another in a cluster formation. These clusters, typically have five to as much as 15 or more oysters fused together in varying sizes and are steamed open and served hot. The hassle of prying the shell open is done for you, courtesy of the steam box or pot. Low Country oyster roasts generally take place from October to the end of March. Don’t forget the essentials; oyster knife, rubber palmed glove (the oysters can be handled easier), hand towel and some like theirs with hot sauce and crackers. I prefer mine without sauces, just the clean, saltiness of the oyster as nature intended.
Now, where to enjoy these tasty mollusks?
My favorite place for a proper Low Country oyster roast would be at Bowen’s Island. Here you’ll find a rustic restaurant with spectacular marsh and sunset views. It tends to get a bit crowded, so get there early. Hours are: Dinner at 5 (Tues-Sat) Closed Sun & Mon. I prefer to have my roasted oysters on Sunday at Bowen’s. The restaurant is closed, but there are many a Sunday when a local organization has a fund raiser. These events take place down on the water in the oyster shack which can accommodate about 200 and the overflow guests enjoy theirs outside. It’s all that you can eat and usually for 20 to 25 bucks. Most are bring your own beverages and there are usually chili and hot dogs at these fund raising events for the non oyster lovers or if you just want to change it up a bit.
Pearlz is my favorite go to place for raw oysters. Their downtown Charleston restaurant is on East Bay Street in the heart of the historic district and their other Charleston location is in West Ashley on Magnolia Road. They have local South Carolina varieties (A.C.E. Blades) and (Wild Otters) as well as many more choices from the Gulf to PEI, Canada. (Gulf from LA), (Ware River from VA), (Blue Points from CT), (Beavertails and Quonset Points from RI), (Thatch Petites from MA), (Weskeag from ME), (Tatamagouche and Cape Breton from Nova Scotia), (Malpeque, Saltaire, Shiny Sea and Canada Cup from PEI), (Royal Miyagi and Effinghams from BC).
You may have heard that oysters should be eaten only in months with “r’s” in them; September to April. The great news is that oysters can be eaten 12 months a year. The idea that oysters should not be eaten in “r” less months, that is, months that occur during warm weather, most likely started in the days when oysters where shipped without proper refrigeration and could easily spoil. Today we can enjoy oysters all year round.
Bowens Island Restaurant
1870 Bowens Island Road
Charleston, SC 29412
Dinner: Tues-Sat – Closed Sun & Mon
Pearlz – Downtown
153 East Bay Street
Pearlz – West Ashley
9 Magnolia Road