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What Is a Raw Bar?

A raw bar is a culinary delight for seafood aficionados, offering a fresh selection of uncooked delicacies like oysters, clams, and ceviche. It's a celebration of the ocean's bounty, served chilled and often paired with zesty sauces. Curious about the origins of this maritime feast or how to navigate its offerings? Dive deeper into the briny world of raw bars with us.
A. Leverkuhn
A. Leverkuhn

Raw bar restaurants are a particular subset of seafood restaurants. These venues often serve raw oysters, clams, and mussels. Often, the restaurant also serves these and other seafood items steamed or otherwise cooked. For example, the raw bar restaurant may also serve crab legs, shrimp, or fish, either in a buffet or to order.

Food safety is critically important for a raw bar. Owners need to be able to distinguish types of mussels and shellfish that are safe to eat raw from those that are not. Relevant factors include the age of seafood, how it is kept, and where it is harvested.

Sushi is often served at a raw bar.
Sushi is often served at a raw bar.

In order to provide correct raw bar safety, restaurants need to observe practical standards from HACCP, or the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points protocol that governs food safety in various regions of the world. Equipment that keeps and stores seafood needs to operate at specific temperatures to guarantee lower levels of bacterial growth over time. Aged food needs to be correctly labeled and rotated as necessary.

A plate of raw oysters on the half shell.
A plate of raw oysters on the half shell.

Part of the appeal of the raw bar has to do with the idea of “fresh food.” This idea is gaining currency all over the world. The main idea of raw food movements is that vegetables and other plants are best eaten uncooked, in order to consume the most vitamins and nutrients. Some of these ideas are also true for fish and seafood. A raw bar often incorporates sushi dishes, a classic example of raw food that is common in many parts of the world. Unlike some other types of restaurants, these eateries have a more exotic appeal and focus, due to the fact that some customers are fans of raw seafood, while many others will not try this sort of food at all.

Raw bars often offer mussels.
Raw bars often offer mussels.

Often, raw bars or similar restaurants will operate in coastal areas with a unique supply of fresh seafood. Another alternate model for this type of restaurant is to diversify: for instance, many of the landlocked restaurants that offer these types of raw bars may also provide Japanese “Hibachi” style cooking on an open grill. Sushi restaurants are also becoming popular in many areas of the world, not just coastal environments. These restaurants will typically offer various cuts of raw fish in traditional or innovative sushi presentations. Another somewhat common kind of sushi or raw fish restaurant is the “conveyor belt” restaurant, where customers take their sushi or other raw seafood items from a complex revolving mechanical belt system.

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Discussion Comments


@Grivusangel -- I know what you mean. My sister loves sushi and would eat her weight in oysters at a raw bar, but I have to have my food cooked a little, at least. I'm even a little suspicious of ceviche, and it's supposed to be "cooked" in the lime juice. I don't know. I'm a fairly adventurous eater, but my food has to be cooked. That's just all there is to it.


I've been to places that had a raw bar, but I just couldn't eat raw oysters or mussels. I don't even eat raw sushi. People talk about how great it is, but I just can't bring myself to do it. The idea sets my teeth on edge.

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    • Sushi is often served at a raw bar.
      Sushi is often served at a raw bar.
    • A plate of raw oysters on the half shell.
      A plate of raw oysters on the half shell.
    • Raw bars often offer mussels.
      By: Marco Mayer
      Raw bars often offer mussels.