Photo courtesy of Kimball House

In truth, the best oyster bar is whichever one you're closest to, but these merit the journey.

Acme Oyster House: New Orleans, LA For many, the French Quarter spot and its worn marble counters is the final word in raw bars. It's also host of the World Oyster Eating Championship. (Record is 47 dozen in 8 minutes.)

Bowens Island Restaurant: Charleston, SC At the end of a furrowed dirt road, join the Lowcountry culinary ritual of prying open clusters of oysters, plucked from the pluff mud and roasted under burlap. 843/795-2757

Drago's Seafood Restaurant: Metairie, LA

Order the charbroiled: Shucked oysters bathed in garlicky butter hunker atop a gas grill as flames leap high and char the shell. 504/888-9254

Felix's Restaurant & Oyster Bar: New Orleans, LA

With its stand-up oyster bar, Felix's is the less raucous, equally delicious answer to Acme, just across the street.

Gilhooley's Oyster Bar: San Leon, TX Exemplar of Gulf Coast barbecued oysters: bivalves smoked in a wood-fired pit, topped with garlic butter and Parmesan. Note: no children allowed. 281/339-3813

Indian Pass Raw Bar: Port St. Joe, FL Located in an old commissary, the divey Indian Pass Raw Bar trades in live music, a constant crowd, and oysters straight from the nearby waters of Apalachicola Bay.

Kimball House: Decatur, GA A leading supporter of the farmed oyster movement, Kimball House offers, give or take, 22 varieties, each described with heady tasting notes.

Merroir: Topping, VA At the Rappahannock River Oyster Co. tasting room, slurp down a dozen just feet from the water where they were harvested. Or try Angels on Horseback, baked oysters with thick, crisp slices of Edwards ham.

The Ordinary: Charleston, SC Chef Mike Lata serves staggering towers of clams and oysters (including local Caper's Blades) in this stylish redo of a former bank.

Saltine Oyster Bar: Jackson, MS Newly opened in August, Saltine touts raw oysters from all of the coasts (Gulf, East, West), plus clever twists like Nashville-style hot fried oysters.