In this town, people treat oysters like celebrities, and Seattle has no shortage of them. Oyster bars in Seattle are hyped up because they’re on the waterfront, or because they have more local varieties than the other guys, or because they got a scuba-chef to dive into Puget Sound with a bucket to harvest your oysters to-order from a reef. With its Ballard location, The Walrus And The Carpenter doesn’t have the seaside appeal or a crazy-huge selection of oysters, but it gets more hype than just about anyone else. The good news is that they actually deserve it.
The space is straight-up delightful, like a tiny farmhouse with an oyster bar inside. It’s best experienced during the daytime, when the light comes in from the windows to reflect on the mirrors and the huge marbled bar covered in wire baskets of new shellfish friends. Pair your trip here with a sense of adventure, a friend or two who need a win, and sparkling rose. Otherwise, you could close your eyes and point to any small plate on the menu. Oysters, vegetables, cooked meats, even the bread - it’s all going to be stellar.
The Walrus And The Carpenter opens at 4pm, which is strategically when you should show up to get a table or bar seat immediately. But, let’s suppose you’re running late and can’t make it in until there’s a half-hour wait. You’ll “have to” head to the Barnacle Bar next door and sit it out over an insanely well-crafted cocktail with really great bartenders who know their way around Amaro and conversation. Oh, shucks. Can’t win them all.
There’s no better time or place to try fresh oysters than here and now. Have the server suggest the best varieties for you and just do it. If you’re too scared to suck one down, slurping the yummy shallot-y mignonette like a shot is also acceptable.
Cornmeal batter on the outside and cilantro aioli for dunking. These are perfect if you don’t know where to start with oysters but want to look cool by saying “yes, I do eat oysters.” The breading is as crisp as a Hyundai commercial voiceover, and the green aioli is top notch even if you’re one of those cilantro-tastes-like-soap mutant people. Be sure to eat the little fallen pieces of crunchy batter at the end, or forever live with your huge mistake.
All other salads ever bow down to this one. Super-thin turnips, cream, radish slices, and savory pistachio granola all drizzled with pomegranate molasses. It’s such a light bite that it will not fill you up at all (in a good way) so order at least one for the table.
If your friend still has her hands on her hips and a pout on her face, repeating, “I will not eat oysters and that’s that,” give her this and tell her to shut up. Grilled octopus with excellent char marks, spicy kimchi, fermented lime zest, and puffed rice for a little crunch. If cooked fish is your thing, this tasty squid will also be your thing.