Jake Safarik, 21, excels in multiple roles at Lewes Oyster House, including server, bartender, line cook, prep, and shucker.

The Raw Deal

Binging on bivalves is a beach tradition

For centuries, raw oyster consumption was basically non-existent, particularly in June, July and August, as the possibility of eating an unsafe oyster increased when it was hot outside. But there was another reason. Wild oysters spawn in summer, and many states, including Delaware, banned harvesting while oysters reproduced. For instance, Delaware once banned oyster harvesting between May 1 and Aug. 10, which led to the first Big Thursday celebration in 1852, when the yearly ban was finally lifted.

At the beach, the world is indeed your oyster, and nowadays, these coastal restaurants serve oysters all year long:

For a raw bar with a view, head to Lewes Oyster House in the Lewes historic district. The oyster bar faces Second Street so you can watch the shuckers and the sidewalk action. Chef Sean Corea also has some fun prepared oysters, including Buffalo Soldiers, the oyster version of Buffalo chicken wings.

The Lewes Oyster House has no connection to Henlopen Oyster House in Rehoboth Beach—other than the oysters. HOH’s oyster bar is small but conveniently close to the main bar. The establishment prides itself on offering oysters that are hard to find in many area restaurants.

In Dewey, Starboard Raw solved owner Steve “Monty” Montgomery’s dilemma regarding lack of space. He opened an oyster-focused spot across the street.

For a refined raw experience, make a reservation at Drift Seafood & Raw Bar in Rehoboth Beach. Chef Tom Wiswell dresses his oysters with exotic ingredients, including Asian pear ponzu, Szechuan chili and trout roe.

Fins Hospitality Group is one of several hospitality companies with restaurants featuring raw oysters, including Fins Fish House & Raw Bar and Fins Ale House and Raw Bar. Although Big Oyster Brewery is part of the group, it leaves the raw oysters to Fins. However, the brewpub has steamed and fried oysters and a second location in Milford.

SoDel Concepts’ restaurants with raw bars include Matt’s Fish Camp in Lewes, Bethany and Fenwick Island, Bluecoast Seafood Grill + Raw Bar in Rehoboth and Bethany and Catch 54 in Fenwick Island.

Big Fish Grill in Rehoboth and Ocean View have raw bars, as does their sibling, The Crab House in Rehoboth Beach, which has $1 oysters daily.

Raw bars aren’t limited to restaurants that hug the coast. Oysters are always the star at JD Shuckers Seafood Grill & Raw Bar, located a few miles from Route 1 on Route 24. But on Thursdays, oyster dishes rule the features menu.  

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