Did you know fall, winter and spring are peak seasons for oyster-eating? So much for enjoying summer at the Jersey Shore with a cold drink and a dozen on the half-shell. Despite this, you’ll find many NJ restaurants offering an oyster menu year-round—and that’s ok. This is thanks to modern-day farming techniques and advancements in food safety.
However, experts still believe that oysters that come from cold water taste the best. Think about the brisk, super-salty Atlantic Ocean. Cold-water oysters are often plump and meaty in texture and have a clean, briny finish. Much like when discussing terroir and wine, the flavor of an oyster is a direct reflection of where it was grown and when in the season it was harvested. That being said, this delicacy is at its peak from September all the way through April, depending on where you live.
While you might be getting ready to welcome in the autumn air in the Garden State, we’ve prepared a guide of NJ restaurants where you can get your oyster fix during their best months. Of course, we couldn’t include everyone, but we like to think these are some top-notch picks if you’re just starting out.
Sirenetta – Hoboken, NJ
Back in 2020, Sirenetta made our list of the best restaurants in North Jersey. At the time, the sister location to Hoboken’s Sorellina had just opened and was generating quite a bit of buzz. Since then, we’ve dined there more than we’d care to admit. However, it holds true nearly a year later that Sirenetta is one of the best places in the state to score some seafood. And an espresso martini.
Inside this modern space, complemented by accents of gold, light wood and marble, goers will find a raw bar on display. Indulge by ordering the seafood tower which includes a curated selection of tiger prawns, king crab legs, oysters and littleneck clams. Don’t miss their oyster Happy Hour Monday-Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. If you simply can’t resist the pasta (it’s all made in-house), do yourself a favor and get the Lobster All’Amatriciana.
Jockey Hollow – Morristown, NJ
This upscale mansion-turned-restaurant in Morristown does a lot of things well. Including offering four different dining experiences within the same venue. One of which is actually called, The Oyster Bar.
The room itself is defined by marble columns balances against teak finishes. Fun fact: it was actually meant to be the mansion’s art gallery back in the day. You can find a variety of raw bar items here from shrimp cocktail with a smoked pepper cocktail sauce, tuna tartare, local littleneck clams and of course, oysters of the day. Here, they’re served with a peach-mint mignonette. As a bonus, you can also enjoy Jockey’s small-plate seafood menu at The Vail Bar while sipping your way through their amazing cocktail lineup.
Asbury Oyster Bar – Asbury Park, NJ
There would be no place more fitting for a swanky oyster bar in Asbury Park than the city’s historic, Wes Anderson-looking Convention Hall. On the raw bar end, can find a rotating selection of locally sourced oysters, littleneck clams and jumbo shrimp. There’s a sampler option that allows you to try a bit of each. You can also opt to build your own from their Shucker’s Block selections.
In 2018, this NJ spot was named as one of the best oyster bar and restaurants in America according to Thrillist. As you can imagine, it remains an integral part of Asbury’s dining landscape.
Halifax – Hoboken, NJ
At Halifax, they’re equally focused on land and sea. Think house-smoked meats from wild boar salami to ham. And please, don’t skip out on the cured fish. The maple smoked salmon is transcendent.
The name of the game here is North-Eastern farm and coastal cuisine. Short of visiting Nova Scotia or scouring the Montauk waters yourself, Chef Seadon Shouse has done all the foraging for you. Sit back at a table on the Hudson waterfront or inside in the light and airy dining room. They’ve got oysters served simply with a champagne mignonette and cocktail sauce. Or, get them fully dressed with seaweed salad, citrus broth, sesame and smoked trout caviar.
The Bonney Read – Asbury Park, NJ
The Bonney Read is well known for being a chowder house. Also, for being named after two of the famous (and badass) female pirates. However, it’s their raw bar offerings that keep guests coming back. You can find a selection of rotating oysters and clams which are “shucked-to-serve.”
Go classic with a dozen on the half shell with a mignonette of minced shallots, cracked pepper and vinegar. Or raw middle neck clams with cocktail sauce. Prefer your clams warm? Try them steamed with drawn butter, parsley and lemon or broiled with bacon, poblano peppers and herbs. If you’re feeling fancy, they’ve got caviar on ice with Cape Cod potato chips and creme fraiche.
Stingray Lounge – Hoboken, NJ
Opened in 2014, the family-owned-and-operated Stingray Lounge is one of Hoboken’s most memorable seafood experiences. Goers can get their fill of East and West Coast oysters but do know their selection changes weekly. Expect all to be served with housemade ground horseradish, cocktail sauce and mignonettes.
The breadth of seafood here extends to chilled half lobster, stone crab claws, colossal shrimp or crabmeat cocktail, clams and more. Splurge by ordering one of their towers. The Jackpot, or most lavish option, includes just a ridiculous amount of shellfish with 24 oysters, 12 clams, 8 U-15 shrimp, a whole lobster and crabmeat cocktail.
Avenue Le Club – Long Branch, NJ
St. Tropez, meet the Jersey Shore. At Avenue, a French brasserie concept, dine from the comfort of your banquette with the beaches of Long Branch as your backdrop. Seriously, it’s worth the trip just for the waterfront views. But, if you’re there to chow down on some local seafood, they’ve got that too. And plenty of it.
To start, oyster lovers can choose between East and West Coast offerings by the half dozen. Other features of the raw bar include middle neck clams, chilled Maine lobster, king crab legs, shrimp cocktail and two types of caviar. If you want to impress your friends or feel like splurging, go with “Les Plateaux.” There are three options ($60, $100 or $160) and each comes with shrimp, clams, mussels and more atop crushed ice.
Ebbitt Room – Cape May, NJ
During any trip to Cape May, The Ebbitt Room at The Virginia Hotel should be on your radar. This upscale restaurant is housed inside an even more luxurious seaside resort. The beginnings of which date back to the late 1800s. Today, they’re sourcing almost everything from their nearby farm including organic vegetables, eggs, herbs and meats.
At The Ebbitt Room, you can find oyster offerings in two ways. Delaware Bay oysters on the half shell with classic mignonette and cocktail sauce. Perfect to slurp down on a brisk, sunny day. Or, our second favorite option, their spin on char-grilled bivalves with Calabrian chili butter, Pecorino and za’atar bread crumbs.
Grand Vin – Hoboken, NJ
Let’s face it, if you’re going to Grand Vin, you’re going for the stellar wine selection. Sign us up for a glass of something light and crisp! Or maybe even a flight.
What this NJ restaurants name doesn’t give away, however, is that they have an amazing oyster program. The bivalves come from Sloop Point Oyster Farms based out of Barnegat Bay. Here they’re surface grown, meaning they’re protected by mesh bags that are suspended towards the water’s surface. If you’re really wise, take advantage of dollar oysters on Thursday nights.
Docks Oyster House – Atlantic City, NJ
It’s been over a century since Docks Oyster House opened its doors in Atlantic City. So technically, that makes it a New Jersey institution. The legacy of Docks was built on its superior standards when it comes to sourcing the highest quality, freshest fish and shellfish. Thankfully, some things don’t change.
On any given night, goers can find an impressively varied oyster lineup. Dock’s offers eight to 12 different varieties of local oysters, in addition to clams, shrimp, mussels and chilled lobster. Oysters are served with their house-made cocktail sauce and cider mignonette. Try a seafood sampler for a bit of everything or join Dock’s for $1 oysters during Happy Hour.
If you’ve got an oyster craving, which of these NJ restaurants are you heading to first? Let us know in the comments