A population of highly coveted oysters—and the oyster farming industry—has created a major mollusk comeback in the commonwealth's rivers and bays. This means cleaner, filtered waters, of course, and also plenty of local bivalves available to area chefs to feature prominently on restaurant menus. We're sharing some of our favorite places to get your slurp on across the state. If you called us pretty "shucking lucky" here in Virginia, we couldn't help but agree.
2985 District Ave., Fairfax
The Dish: Oysters On The Half Shell
Slurp-worthy Source: Rappahannock Oyster Company (Rappahannock River, Olde Salts and Stingray)
Outstanding Oysters: Including a simple raw oyster dish on our list—and arguably the best preparation—was a must, and Brine specializes in serving some of the area's finest, along with nothing more than cocktail sauce, lemon and mignonette. Watch expert shuckers open your oysters at the raw bar and set them straight on your plate.
Briny Bonuses: Continue the bivalve bonanza with Barcat Oyster Chowder with bacon, leeks and potatoes or Oysters "Casino" with lamb heart pastrami, peppers and breadcrumbs.
10 South Thompson St., Richmond
The Dish: Roasted Oysters Forestiere
Outstanding Oysters: Perhaps the most indulgent of our six picks, this earthy dish includes four dreamy roasted oysters with wild mushrooms, shallots, lemon, cream and Gruyere cheese.
Briny Bonuses: This may be a burger joint, but don't dare look past more than a few oyster choices. Before the beef, order oysters on the half shell or oyster stew with cream, garlic, celery and New Zealand grass-fed butter. Besides the Forestiere other roasted preparations are New Zealand, with drawn butter, lemon and house hot sauce; Casino, with uncured bacon, red peppers, diced bacon and parmesan; Rockefeller, with spinach, garlic, cream, Pernod, parmesan and bread crumbs; or BBQ, with uncured bacon, onion, chipotle and BBQ sauce.
Eurasia Cafe & Wine Bar
960 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach
The Dish: Fried Oyster Sliders
Slurp-worthy Source: Cherrystone Aqua Farms
Outstanding Oysters: Kimchee, avocado and smoked soy aioli give this mini-sammie a very pleasing Asian flair. Of course, the star of this luscious lunch plate are plump and lightly fried oysters between a pillow-soft bun that have us thinking, "Hamburger who?"
Briny Bonuses: Eurasia's lunch and dinner menu includes "The World is Your Oyster" options of fried with Old Bay buerre blanc; raw with cucumber, basil and honey mignonettes; and Oysters Eurasia with spinach, bacon, cream cheese, panko and parmesan.
784 Locklies Creek Rd., Topping
The Dish: BBQ Bourbon Chipotle Grilled Oysters
Slurp-worthy Source: Rappahannock Oyster Company
Outstanding Oysters: Sweet Rappahannock oysters spend a few minutes on a blazing grill to bring out juices that marry so perfectly with a savory and slightly spicy combination of brown sugar, butter, bourbon and chipotles in adobo.
Briny Bonuses: Bivalves are the star at this "oyster tasting room," so you'll discover plenty of preparations. Start with a raw plate including the aforementioned Rappahannocks (sweet), Stingrays (mild) and Olde Salts (briny) to compare and contrast. Continue sampling them roasted with garlic butter or baked with Edwards ham and herb butter.
Vola's Dockside Grill
101 N. Union St., Alexandria
The Dish: Fried Oyster Po' Boy
Slurp-worthy Source: Bevans Oyster Company
Outstanding Oysters: This overloaded sandwich may have been invented in Louisiana, but after ordering an oyster po' boy at Vola's you most likely won't want to venture anywhere else for this super serious comfort food. Crispy fried local oysters—jam packed between toothsome French bread with lettuce tomato and remoulade—are served up with Southern slaw, spicy pickle and choice of Old Bay fries or sea salt and vinegar chips.
Briny Bonuses: Begin your meal with the daily raw oyster selection, shucked to order.
Waypoint Seafood & Grill
1480 Quarterpath Rd., Williamsburg
The Dish: Oysters The Waypoint Way
Slurp-worthy Source: Tommy Leggett's York River Oysters
Outstanding Oysters: Take a traditional Oysters Rockefeller, kick it up several notches, make it super local, and you have oysters The Waypoint Way. This indulgent dish takes York River Oysters, mildly salty with a sweet finish, and adds Virginia ham, Cabot Cheddar Cheese, spinach, crab and Bérnaise sauce.
Briny Bonuses: More oysters to try include on the half shell, fried, topping a salad with smoked bacon and herb buttermilk dressing or in a slider along with Virginia ham, lettuce, tomato and crispy onions.