Sitting down with a menu of a variety of oysters can be overwhelming, so we dive into the best west coast oysters so you can feel knowledgeable and confident next time you order oysters.
Oysters have been a delicacy for thousands of years and are still eaten on almost every continent. One reason we love them is that they are naturally sustainable. There are only five species of oysters harvested in the US, and their differences come from where they are gown.
Oysters have been very on-trend lately. They are refreshing, celebratory, unique, clean and often paired with champagne. It can be hard to tell which oysters you are eating when you do find one you love or dislike since they look similar and don’t often have labels of which oyster is which. Some of the oysters west coast offers are widely known as the best.
What is the difference between west coast and east coast oysters?
One might think that the battle of east vs west coast oysters is just about coastal pride. But, oysters really do have a wide variety of tastes, textures and appearances depending on where they are from. This is partially because oysters filter water and consume the salt, minerals and plankton in the water they grow in. Therefore, the oyster flavor will vary greatly depending on the water they grow in. Including which coast they are from. Yes, they are both ocean water, but the makeup of the seawater on each coast is different. And thus, the oysters are in fact different on the west coast and the east coast.
The way this is commonly explained is that the ocean has its own terroir, which is known as merroir. And that is a big part of how people compare the oysters on the two coasts.
East Coast oysters are usually salty and briney, paisley, small, narrow and a bit chewy. West Coast oysters on the other hand are usually sweet, deep cut, plump, and round with fluted edges. The west coast have a firm texture, buttery sweet finish, and a rich creamy flavor. That’s quite a bit of differentiation for the same thing grown just off of another coast.
West Coast oysters often have a melon or cucumber note and tend to be smaller overall and mild in terms of the salt. There is not as much variation in west coast oysters since the farmers are more limited to harvesting from Washington and Oregon. British Columbia oysters usually have less of fruity notes than Washington and Oregon oysters. West Coast oysters are great for beginners.
Best West Coast Oysters
Below is a list of the most well-known and tastiest types of oysters you can find that grow on the west coast.
Kumamoto – Washington
These well-known oysters originated in Japan but are now mostly grown in Washington. They are dependable oyster that are almost always small with a dense round shell. As for flavor, these oysters have clean ocean notes and a hint of watermelon flavor. Fun fact: Kumamotos are their own species of oysters.
Kusshi – British Colombia
These very popular west coast oysters look like a larger version of the Kumamoto oyster. The meat overflows the shell. But, they have sought after flavor from the Pacific Ocean with a very clean flavor.
Baynes Sound – British Colombia
The Baynes Sound oysters are a bit less popular than the Kusshi and Kumamoto, but they are very tasty as well. These oysters have a salty bite that gets rounded by the cucumber flavor. They are some of the largest West Coast oysters coming in at three and a half inches.
Fanny Bay – British Colombia
This oyster has a fluted shell that can be easier to open than your average. The meat is firm, very salty and very sweet, with a cucumber finish.
Drakes Bay – California
These oysters are grown in Drakes Bay, California in baskets hung above the ocean floor where they feed on nutrients. Thus, these oysters are faster growing and sweeter because of this basket growing.
Miyagis – British Colombia
Another very popular oyster is the Miyagi due to a nice watermelon flavor followed by a very clean aftertaste.
Marin Coast – California
These oysters have deep cupped shells with plump meat that has hints of melon with a fresh sea taste. These are farm raised in Tomales Bay, California
Hog Island – California
These famous oysters grow just a short drive from San Francisco in Tomales Bay. They are loved for their small size and plump creamy and sweet smokey flavor.
Wild Card: Totten Inlet – Hood Canal, Washington
Plot twist. These are East Coast oysters that grow in West coast wasters. They have a clean saline taste similar to Atlantic ocean oysters with notes of melon, and their shells are more shallow. They will be hard to come by, so if you do find them, it’s worth the extra money to try a few.
Now that you know this list of the best west coast oysters, which will you try first and why? We certainly recommend enjoying oysters overlooking the San Francisco bay. They somehow always taste fresher and better that way.
We’d love to know if you agree with our list. Let us know if you think we left any of the best oysters off our list!