Once known for its seasonal abundance of wild oysters, the South now yields a fledgling bounty of farmed oysters meant for slurping fresh on the half shell. Here are a few of our favorite producers cultivating oysters from Virginia to Louisiana.
1. Rappahannock River Oysters: Topping, Virginia Cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton helped pioneer Chesapeake Bay oyster farming in the mid-aughts. Order Rappahannock’s sweet and buttery namesake oysters along with classic Stingrays and briny old Olde Salts from the website or taste them at the family’s acclaimed oyster bars and restaurants, including outposts in Washington D.C. and Richmond, Virginia.
2. H.M. Terry & Sons Sewansecott Oyster: Willis Wharf, VA Fourth generation oyster farmer Heather Lusk and her family grow some of the best oysters on the planet on the Eastern shore of Virginia. Firm, meaty Sewansecotts (say it three times fast) come on strong with bracing Atlantic Ocean saltiness and finish sweet and delicate. The clams are pristine, too.
3. Potomac River Oyster Company: Lottsburg, Virginia More sweet than briny, mild-tasting Potomac Whitecaps grow where the Potomac and Coan Rivers merge with the Chesapeake Bay.
4. Pleasure House Oysters: Virginia Beach, Virginia Wild oyster fans will appreciate the earthy, robust flavor of these Lynnhaven River bivalves. Their thick shells, long lips, and deep cups make them perfect for eating on the half shell.
5. Bodie Island Oysters: Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina Joey Daniels grows these beauties on the estuarine side of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in northeast North Carolina. The oysters boast a strong shell structure, a pretty tear-drop shape, and firm meat that walks a perfect line between sweet and salty.
6. Chadwick Creek Oysters: Bayboro, North Carolina Former hedge funder Chris Matteo and his wife bought 110 acres of waterfront land with eight acres of deeded oyster bottom with no intention of getting into the oyster business. Now they grow delicate and mild-tasting Chadwick Creeks and sell them to high-end restaurants in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region known as the Triangle via a dock-to-door distributor called Local Seafood.
7. Caper’s Blades Oysters: Charleston, South Carolina Clammer Dave, aka Dave Belanger, adopted a unique chiseling and purging process that transforms wild cluster oysters meant for roasting into delicate, blade-shaped single oysters perfect for slurping on the half shell. His long, skinny, medium-cupped oysters stand out among crowded trays of fresh shellfish at newfangled seafood temples like Charleston’s The Ordinary.
8. Lady’s Island Oysters: Beaufort County, South Carolina Former tough guy Marine Frank Roberts and his crew grow seriously gorgeous oysters with plump and juicy meat and delicate, medium-sized shell. Aficionados in the low country prize the Single Lady oyster for its balanced flavor and smooth, clean finish.
9. Sapelo Sea Farms: Townsend, Georgia 912-223-3079/912-832-4423 Georgia shellfish pioneer Charlie Phillips is one of only a handful of farmers to cultivate clams and oysters in Georgia.
10. Ossabaw Oyster Company: Midway, Georgia 912-884-3573/912-432-3800 Saline forward with a mellow finish, Ossabaw Oysters are the handiwork of Joe Maley, who operates south of Savannah.
11. Sandy Bay Oyster Company: Sandy Bay and Fowl River Bay, Alabama Grown by a fifth generation commercial fishing family who also run a shrimping outfit, Murder Point Oysters feature a distinct wide and rounded shell with a medium cup and flesh with a mild, almost buttery flavor.
12. Point Aux Pin Oyster Farm:Grand Bay, Alabama The Point Aux Pin is a steak lover’s oyster: firm, meaty, and rich with just enough brine.
13. Caminada Bay Oyster Farm: Grand Isle, Louisiana What happens when Jim Gossen, a seafood distributor and one of the Gulf’s premier seafood experts teams up with Jules Melancon, an old salt waterman who spent his career gathering wild oysters? Beautiful farmed green-gray oysters like Beauregard Island Oysters that eat earthy and vegetal with a bit of a wild streak.