Ordering and tasting oysters can be daunting to the beginner. In this handy how-to guide We’ll address the most common species of oysters and where they’re found, tips for ordering oysters and questions to ask your server, and things to note when tasting oysters. Let’s dive in!

So you want to explore the blissful taste of bivalves but haven’t a clue where to begin. A great place to start is with an understanding of the most common species of oysters and where they’re found. Though there are hundreds of varieties of oysters, there are 5 common species you’ll find at most raw bars. 

  • Atlantic Oysters- As their name suggests, these oysters are found along the Atlantic coast, most notably in New England and Virginia. Though, our favorite oysters are found in the ACE Basin of South Carolina.
  • Olympia Oysters- These creamy, custardy oysters are found along the coast of Washington state and Northern California.
  • Pacific Oysters- With vegetal undertones, these oysters are found on the West Coast and British Columbia
  • Kumamoto Oysters- Originally from Japan, this variety is found mostly in the same locales as Pacific oysters.
  • Gulf Coast Oysters- Meatier and silkier than their west coast counterparts, these oysters are primarily found in the waters of Louisiana, Alabama, & Florida

Let’s order some oysters! When ordering oysters we suggest starting slow. Size and salinity should be the first factor when ordering. If you’re not one for salt or are squeamish about texture, we suggest ordering a smaller, low salinity variety of oyster. It’s also a great idea to begin ordering by size. Oysters range from small to large with differing amounts of meat. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, order one of each! However, we always like to order at least two of the same variety to really understand the flavor profile; we’ll touch more on that later!

Start a dialogue with your server. Ask for their opinions and recommendations on oysters; maybe go to a restaurant that has a limited oyster menu so you’re not overwhelmed and servers have tried all of the oysters on the menu. A server with an opinion on oyster varieties can help you a great deal in finding the perfect one! If you happen to live on the coast or a region where oysters are grown, we always encourage trying the oysters of that specific region and then branch out. 

So you’ve ordered your oysters and now you’re ready to taste those bad boys!

  • Taste with your eyes! Inspect the oyster’s shape, shell, and color.
  • Smell the oyster. It shouldn’t have a fishy scent, rather the smell of salt water.
  • Taste a bit of the liquor of the oyster to gain a sense of its salinity.
  • Taste your first oyster naked, not covered in hot sauce or mignonettes.
  • Shoot that puppy back brine and all!
  • Don’t just slurp and swallow. Give the oyster a few chews to get the full taste.

That’s the down and dirty on oyster species, ordering oysters, and tasting them! We hope we’ve given you a tidbit of knowledge that you can use to confidently order and enjoy our favorite bivalves.


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