People will tell you not to dress your oysters, that even the slightest mist from a nearby lemon squeeze or errant drop of Tapatío will ruin the terroir of the delicate mollusk.
True, a good, raw oyster carries the perfect essence of the sea. But that doesn’t mean you can’t dabble. After all, an August peach tastes pretty damn good with a side of ice cream warm off the grill.
And in Point Reyes, you can get your oysters raw. You can get them BBQ’d. You can add one dash of hot sauce, or three. You can do lemon, mignonette, or cocktail sauce. There’s no pretense in this West Marin oyster heaven. Do as you please.
Screw Napa. Screw Half Moon Bay or Tahoe. For your money, Point Reyes is the ultimate Bay Area day trip.
Fresh from Tomales Bay, oysters are the end-all be-all cuisine around Point Reyes. Choose your adventure below for the spot that best suits your style.
PERFECT FOR: THE PLANNER || Tomales Bay Oyster Company has picnic tables along the water, each with a small, state-park style grill. It’s first come, first served. That means get there early (before 11) and plan ahead: you’ll need to bring a cooler and ice. You’ll need charcoal and a lighter, a shucking knife and gloves. You’ll need the hot sauce, BBQ sauce, cocktail sauce, sliced lemons, artisan sourdough, triple cream brie, side quinoa salad, chips, dips, plates, napkins, and – ever so importantly – the beer. You should also bring that friend who actually knows how to shuck an oyster and the friend who will stay sober to drive home. True pros bring cornhole and speakers to get the party going.
PERFECT FOR: THE TOO TIRED TO SHUCK || Great bayside seating and the best BBQ’d oyster around make the Marshall Store an easy choice if you are not looking to spend a whole day shucking. They’ve got six types of prepared oysters (including raw). We like the BBQ’d oysters and the smoked ones, all sourced from Tomales Bay Oyster Company down the road. There are prepared foods and sandwiches and the tamales are solid, but you can make a meal out of just the oysters. They also sell beer and other beverages.
PERFECT FOR: PARENTS IN TOWN || A real restaurant, with real walls and real seats and real wait staff, Nick’s Cove is perfect for impressing your parents, without getting too rustic. Oysters – they have BBQ'd as well as a variety of cooked and raw options – probably won’t be your full meal here, so it's good if you’re just looking for a taste. Nick’s has full lunch and dinner menus, with things like truffled garlic fries, deviled duck eggs, and Dungeness crab… You get the drift.
PERFECT FOR: THE PICNIC & THE VIEW || Hog Island might be the best known stop for oysters on the Pacific Coast Highway, and for good reason. The view of Tomales Bay is second only to their chipotle bourbon butter barbecued oysters. The menu looks like a gourmand’s picnic basket: oysters (raw and bbq’d), salad, charcuterie plate (the pickled golden raisins, tho), and a variety of local cheeses and bread. The beer and wine options are quality as well. There’s nothing filling on the menu, and you’ll drop a lot of cash to leave here full. If you want to bring your own accoutrements, you can reserve a picnic table and grill if you’d rather shuck yourself. More touristy than the other oyster spots, Hog Island also sells raw oysters to go if you’d rather shuck elsewhere.
PERFECT FOR: A DATE || Saltwater Oyster Depot is textbook West Marin Cool. Sit at the bar and take advantage of the stellar local beer and wine options. The menu changes fairly regularly, but it’s thoughtfully local and creative. Don’t skimp on the Parkside Bakery bread made daily down the road in Stinson Beach. Like wine tasting, it’s always fun to get a few different oysters and compare. The service can be a bit slow, but it’s just more time to enjoy your company, right?
PERFECT FOR: NOT OYSTERS || If you’re ready for your first religious scone experience, stop at Bovine in the morning. One of their moist, incredible scones could feed three people, but you should order your own. The savory scones, like kalamata olive, green onion, and feta, are where it’s at.
PERFECT FOR: PICNIC SUPPLIES || The agricultural darling of Pt. Reyes, Cowgirl Creamery left its small-town roots for an expanded space in nearby Petaluma. But the remaining outpost just around the corner from Bovine has everything you could need for an impromptu picnic in West Marin. In addition to their otherworldly cheeses (when in doubt, Mt. Tam), they have nice pre-made sandwiches and salads. For an easy hike to enjoy with your spoils, head out to Abbotts Lagoon, a quick 2.3 mile stroll to the beach.