We take a trip north to south to hit some of the best oyster spots Charlotte and the surrounding towns have to offer.
Most longtime shellfish connoisseurs are familiar with the old adage that sets a season for safe oyster eating: You should only eat wild oysters during months that include the letter R, from September to April.
The R-less summer months from May to August are said to produce watery oysters that carry more risk of food poisoning. While a recent report suggests that humans may have been following this rule for 4,000 years, according to the Florida Museum, other recent research points to the newfound belief that they’ve been wrong all along.
As early as 2017, The New York Times was already giving the greenlight for oyster eaters to have at it year-round.
“Essentially if you buy oysters that are grown in healthy waters and they’re handled properly, then there’s no problem with eating them any time of the year,” Donald Meritt, an aquaculturist at the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, told the NYT.
Meritt explained that oysters native to the American East Coast don’t spawn the same way as the European oysters that likely inspired the mistaken adage about the summer which means that, while they may be a bit more watery than oysters farmed in the winter, summer oysters are as healthy as any other type.
That’s great news, because now you can keep our list of Charlotte’s best oyster spots handy for any time you feel like venturing out on the town for some mollusks on a half-shell (or mixed into a vodka shot, but we’ll get there).
We’ve created an oyster trail through the greater Charlotte area, beginning in northern Mecklenburg County and moving down through the neighborhoods of the Queen City and its surrounding towns in search of the region’s best oysters.
20210 Henderson Road, Cornelius
Hello, Sailor was opened by popular local restaurateurs Joe and Katy Kindred in 2017, building on the success of their popular Kindred restaurant. Located farther north in Davidson, Hello, Sailor is more of a laid-back vibe, which is helped along by its location right on the banks of Lake Norman.
You’ll see folks dock their boat just to walk up to the bar and grab a cocktail and a plate of oysters, which are served a half-dozen at a time with the proper accouterments at market price.
9615 Bailey Road, Cornelius
Moving south in Cornelius, just before entering Huntersville, you’ll find The Waterman Fish Bar, part of Charlotte-based restaurant group High Tide Hospitality.
Having found success with its first location in Charlotte’s South End, HTH co-owner Paul Manley decided to open a second location in north Mecklenburg County near Lake Norman in 2022. As does the rest of his menu, Manley’s oyster list changes daily based on what’s coming in. A recent November morning saw options from Canada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maine, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
9723 Sam Furr Road, Huntersville
Named for two railcar terms—in honor of its original location in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood—local restaurateur Rob Duckworth expanded Link & Pin in 2020, opening two more locations at a time when many other restaurants were forced to close for good.
The menu includes the popular crispy oysters, served with sriracha honey and charred corn. The original location offers a Happy Hour Food Menu from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, during which the crispy oysters are just $5 a plate. Take note: Unlike some of the laid-back beach-like bars on this list, Link & Pin has a dress code, encouraging customers to “dress in an elegant, upscale manner that fits our environment,” according to the website.
9005 J M Keynes Drive, #2, Charlotte’s University City neighborhood
Located on the Boardwalk close to the UNC-Charlotte campus, Boardwalk Billy’s has been a go-to for not only students but seafood lovers throughout University City for nearly two decades.
The menu includes Gulf Coast oysters, available by the dozen or half-dozen, steamed or raw. The restaurant serves a slew of other Southern foods and meats if you’re with someone who’s not a fan of oysters—but why would you be with them anyway?
3120 N. Davidson St., Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood
A craft beer bar in Charlotte’s historic arts district of NoDa just north of Uptown, Growlers Pourhouse keeps a rotating list of oysters available raw on the half-shell or roasted and served with black garlic butter, parmesan, and brioche crumbs.
The real treat, however, is the oyster shooter, for which they dunk a Pourhouse Point oyster into a shot glass and stir it up with pepper vodka, cocktail sauce, and lemon juice.
120 E. Brooklyn Village Ave., Uptown Charlotte
Opened in November 2021, Caroline’s Oyster Bar bills itself as “a fanciful take on a coastal seafood place,” with a chic nautical theme that gives this Carolina-style raw bar a touch of class.
Located inside the JW Marriott in Uptown, the breezy patio seating and open-air format of the indoor dining room makes you feel like you’re anywhere but in a hotel. Served raw, roasted, or steamed, the rotating selection of fresh oysters covers all the bases, from Devil Shoals to Lawton Points, Hatteras Salts and beyond.
Or if you want to throw down $175, try the Caroline’s, which includes 12 oysters, eight jumbo Gulf shrimp, and 16 ounces of king crab.
1800 E. 7th St., Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood
Located in a 100-year-old house in the historic Elizabeth neighborhood, Cajun Queen has become a staple for music lovers who enjoy the live jazz performed every night of the week. The Cajun fried oysters come breaded and fried to perfection, served with a tomato remoulade sauce for dipping. There’s also regular fried oysters, and a number of other ways you can enjoy them—in a New Orleans platter or tossed into a Caesar salad, for example.
4701 Park Road
Opening this summer, L’Ostrica has already been building a buzz from its location in the popular Montford Park neighborhood.
Launched by Cat Carter and Eric Ferguson, the pair came up with the name, Italian for oyster, over a plate of the shellfish. Having begun with a chef’s market, the pair launched their full seasonal tasting menu in early fall, with a brunch menu on the way. Expect that the namesake dish will play a big role in both.
1826 Windsor Square Drive, Matthews
Located in the Matthews suburb southeast of Charlotte, Tasty Crab House offers up an all-you-can-eat menu that invites customers to plunk down $35 each to order whatever they like for two hours, including fried oysters.
Or you can go the more traditional route and order raw or cooked oysters from the a-la-carte menu, made to order and served with your choice of Cajun, lemon pepper or garlic butter seasoning—or the Tasty Special, which douses them with all of the above.
11318 N Community House Road, #200, Charlotte’s Ballantyne neighborhood
Originally opened in St. John in 1994, in 2021 the team behind Woody’s Seafood Saloon brought those Virgin Islands vibes to Charlotte’s Ballantyne neighborhood.
Serving traditional bar fare with a Caribbean twist, including the oyster dinner platter, which goes for $25 and can be served raw or cooked to order. The restaurant also serves an oyster po’boy, which comes with crispy fried oysters on a toasted hoagie with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, and remoulade sauce.