Surprising as it may seem, it’s August, and we’re talking oysters.

Once confined to an “R month” harvest, oysters are now readily available year-round. Thanks to refrigeration and, more recently, the advent of triploid oysters, which are sterile, thus eliminating the shellfish’s summer spawning season, when their flesh is too weak and watery for market.

With Maryland’s oyster-farming industry starting to hit its stride, oyster-lovers are finally beginning to reap the rewards here at home.

Oyster farming, or aquaculture, is growing exponentially with farms popping up all across the state—nearly 4,000 acres of oyster farms dot our side of the Chesapeake Bay.

These days, their bounty is being shucked from shells and served up at a growing number of restaurants and bars across the city.

Each is a little different, picking up the “merroir,” or subtle nuances, of the waters and ways in which they were raised, much like a wine’s terroir. They vary in size, sweetness and salinity, but whatever you’re preference, these mollusks are mouth-watering.

Here are six of our favorites, hailing from St. Mary’s County to the southern edges of the Eastern Shore, as well as some local digs where you can slurp them down.

THE OYSTER: True Chesapeake Oyster Company’s “Skinny Dipper”

THE FARM: St. Jerome Creek; Ridge

THE FLAVOR: Grown in a tucked away creek in St. Mary’s County near the Potomac River, these farmed favorites mingle in their local waters with the Atlantic’s high salinity for a not-too-salty, not-too-sweet “soft salt” taste. “Part of that is thanks to the unique properties of St. Jerome Creek,” says Patrick Hudson, owner of True Chesapeake Oyster Co. “Another part is our husbandry practices that keep the oyster off the bottom where mud and silt can alter the flavor.” Clean, crisp and refreshing, they’re a great go-to for a half-shell happy hour.

WHERE TO EAT THEM: Dylan’s Oyster CellarRyleigh’s OysterThe Boathouse CantonHeavy Seas AlehouseOyster Bay GrilleVictoria Gastro Pub.


THE OYSTER: Chesapeake Gold Oyster’s “Chesapeake Golds”

THE FARM: Hooper’s Island; Fishing Creek

THE FLAVOR: Hailing from Hooper’s Island on the Eastern Shore, these farmed filter feeders are a plump, medium oyster with a thick shell and a deep cup. They have a fairly salty, full flavor up front, followed by a sweet finish that makes it easy to slurp back a half-dozen or so by yourself on a sunny, summer afternoon. No cocktail sauce necessary.

WHERE TO EAT THEM: The Local OysterThames Street Oyster HouseNick’s Fish House & GrillB&O American BrasserieCunningham’sChristopher Daniel.


THE OYSTER: The Choptank Oyster Company’s “Choptank Sweets”

THE FARM: Choptank River; Cambridge

THE FLAVOR: Named for the Dorchester County river in which they’re grown, these Eastern Shore shuckers are raised in floats just below the surface, which gives them a meaty texture “because it’s up at the top of the water column where food and oxygen are most abundant,” says manager Kevin McClarren. Imbued with the locale’s light salinity, they live up to their name with a mild flavor and finish that’s slightly buttery and—you guessed it—sweet.

WHERE TO EAT THEM: Thames Street Oyster House; The Boathouse Canton; Ten Ten American BistroThe Nickel Taphouse; The Rusty Scupper; Victoria Gastro Pub.


THE OYSTER: Chesapeake Gold Oyster’s “Holy Grails”

THE FARM: Hooper’s Island; Fishing Creek

THE FLAVOR: Saltier and smaller than their Chesapeake Gold sisters, these new CG oysters hit the market in March of this year. Also grown on Hooper’s Island, they have deep shells, meaty bodies and their initial saline burst finishes up smooth and slightly sweet. Just a squeeze of lemon will do.

WHERE TO EAT THEM: Thames Street Oyster House; Nick’s Fish House & Grill, Riverside; Heavy Seas Alehouse; B&O American Brasserie; Cunningham’s; Oyster Bay Grille.


THE OYSTER: Hollywood Oyster Company’s “Sweet Jesus” oysters

THE FARM Patuxent River; Hollywood

THE FLAVOR: A few miles north of Solomons Island, these St. Mary’s County sweets are grown in off-bottom cages in a mile-wide stretch of river that bellies up to acres upon acres of preserved park and private land. A smaller, milder oyster, they have a clean, sweet taste that’s reminiscent of cucumber with light hints of salt.

WHERE TO EAT THEM: Thames Street Oyster House; Dylan's Oyster Cellar; The Nickel Taphouse; B Bistro; Heavy Seas Alehouse; Cunningham’s.


THE OYSTER: Barren Island Oysters

THE FARM: Hooper’s Island; Fishing Creek

THE FLAVOR: These Eastern Shore oysters are grown in off-bottom cages on the open water just off Barren Island, a tiny, eroding dot of land that’s part of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and one of the few remaining islands on the Chesapeake Bay. Light and approachable, they’re a clean, “not-salty oyster,” as owner Tim Devine calls them, with mineral hints, plump meat and a fine, polished shell.

WHERE TO EAT THEM: Thames Street Oyster House; Dylan's Oyster Cellar; Ryleigh’s Oyster; Christopher Daniel.

*Oyster availability varies daily. 


Lydia Woolever is a Maryland native who has written for Esquire, Time Out New York, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.