Did you even know it was National Seafood Month? Neither did we. While the term seafood includes many types of deliciousness, we're gonna focus on some shellfish— specifically oysters. Five years ago, you couldn't find a place in Orange County that specialized in them. Now, we've got more than a handful to choose from. We call that progress. Here are our six go-to spots, along with some extra info to chew on.
Anchor Hitch – Mission Viejo
The first tenant to open at Union Market's South OC food hall, Edwin's review included nuggets on Chef Michael Pham like, “He can bake a mean oysters Rockefeller with loads of butter without it ending up too rich or heavy.” We consider Pham's menu the best looking of them all, full of color and texture. And dishes taste even better than they look. But if you're in the mood for a stack of oysters, ask your waiter if any are on special: Pham makes 'em half-off when he wants to clear inventory.
EMC Seafood & Raw Bar – Irvine
With their original branch in LA's Koreatown, EMC took over the space formerly used by Elephant Bar and managed to make it light and spacious (with a patio!). Perfectly shucked bivalves await hungry diners, as workers are busy, ” . . . .over waist-high mounds of ice. They're what first grabs your attention . . .” Parking can be a drag sometimes. Thankfully, they not only take online reservations, but are open late.
The Oyster Bar SKC – Anaheim
Related to, but not to be confused with Ritter's Steam Kettle Cooking, this recently opened destination finds us at ARTIC (Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center). If that doesn't ring a bell, drive towards Honda Center and look for the massive structure with a Lite-Brite shell. With a building that screams flash mob/photo shoot/TV location, you'll find DJs spinning Friday and Saturday nights. The kettle bar is separate from the oyster bar, which is separate from the drinking bar— telling us there's lots of room to move about and get social.
Shuck Oyster Bar – Costa Mesa
Our O.G. of the bunch, this Leonard Chan concept set the bar for its successors. Offering a flat $3 per oyster, you can't help but try a few. The only one of the bunch without a full liquor license, that doesn't stop them from having a loyal following. We are pretty partial to the classic grilled cheese and shrimp Caesar. And when you're done, browse SoCo's home stores as well as the rest of The OC Mix.
Water Grill – South Coast Plaza
Boasting square footage of over 17,000, the newest branch of Water Grill includes an outdoor bar, indoor bar and oyster bar. If impressive restaurant scene is what you're looking for, search no further. This is quickly becoming the default for pre-theater dining. And when you consider that their private seafood distribution center is only a few miles away, seafood is guaranteed to be fresh and of the highest quality. Check out our interview with their chef in next week's On the Line.
Ways & Means Oysters – Huntington Beach
Situated with the greatest view since moving from Orange to Huntington Beach, former Chef Justin Odegard admitted the kitchen is a tough place to be on a sunny day. Oysters may be in the name, but their expansive small plates menu is perfect for sharing. Just be sure to get your parking validated! Patio dining is your best bet on an easy, breezy afternoon.