A GOOD OYSTER—a humble, barely sentient bivalve in a bark-like shell—is an eating event. There's no hiding behind pretension: If it's not fresh, if there are shell bits floating around due to poor shucking technique, if your accoutrements are off—it's all right there on the half shell.
Portland is near prime oyster-growing territory, so it's not surprising they're on just about every menu in town. But I wanted to take this shellfish and elevate it from a pre-meal indulgence to a full-on experience: an oyster crawl, a way to sample the fruits of the sea. I also made the existence of rosé on the wine menu a qualifier of this expedition; it's a wine that does great things with the salty oysters. I've devised two crawls on the Eastside (this week), and two crawls on the Westside (next week), each featuring three restaurants.
THIS WEEK: THE EASTSIDE
THE HAPPY HOUR CRAWL
2138 SE Division
Oysters at happy hour are just $2 each, making it easier to splurge on the rosé flight at this wine-centric spot: a pink rainbow of Chateau de Breze, Domaine Ott, and Bergerie de l'Hortus ($13), or just grab a $6 rosé of the day. The happy hour oysters, Torkes from Oregon, were light and small, with a basic mignonette and lemons. (Happy Hour: Mon-Fri 5-6 pm)
B&T Oyster Bar
3113 SE Division
B&T Oyster Bar will be your favorite stop on this crawl. We had Kumamotos, Shigokus (my personal favorites), both from Washington, and Coromandels, which were flown in from New Zealand. (I did not say this crawl wouldn't have a carbon footprint!) Chef Trent Pierce pairs them with two (count 'em, TWO) mignonettes, one with chili and a more traditional champagne version. Happy hour offers half off an oyster-pairing wine, so hope it's rosé that day. (Happy Hour: Tues-Sat 5-7 pm)
The Woodsman Tavern
4537 SE Division
Someday I will finally shell out (PUN INTENDED) the big money for the Woodsman's gorgeous seafood tower. But in the meantime, finish this crawl with the tavern's $2 oysters. Our visit included more Torkes and also small Summerstones. Resist the cocktails and go with a rosé of Grenache from France. (Oyster Hour: weekdays 5-7 pm; weekends 2-5 pm)
2930 NE Killingsworth
This French cutie of a restaurant only offers discounted oysters on Thursdays from 5-7 pm. Otherwise it's list price, which included Shigokus ($3.50 each) and Steamboats ($2.50 each) on our crawl. The small, sweet Shigokus are worth the extra dollar over the fat and unexciting Steamboats. The Domaine Santa Giulietta from Corsica ($10) popped super well with the briny oysters.
1733 NE Alberta
If I had to vote for best oyster spot in Portland, it would probably be Aviary. Served in a perfectly symmetrical row ($2 at happy hour; $11 for four otherwise), these Shigokus from Washington's Taylor Shellfish Farms are topped with a tomato granite (think tomato-flavored ice) and horseradish, which keeps the little fellas chilled to perfection and also brings all kinds of flavor to the mix. Perfection. (Happy Hour: Mon-Fri 5-7 pm)
2240 N Interstate
Broder Nord, woefully underrated for dinner, is an oyster binge-eater's paradise, offering $1 oysters all night. Well, they did, until the summer drought... we paid $2.50 each for Netarts last month, but our server promised they plan to drop prices as the weather cools. Broder also has a rosé flight ($15), so expect me there once a week when economy pricing kicks back into gear.
Dear readers: I skipped Eat: An Oyster Bar in favor of including its downtown sister restaurant, the Parish, in a crawl next week, so CHILL OUT, people! Future bonus trip: Olympia Oyster Bar, formerly a roving pop-up, is setting up shop at 4214 N Mississippi in December.