Generally, the term oyster bar is used to describe a restaurant that specializes in preparing and serving oysters. Though many of these establishments may have a bar area set aside for the consumption of these shellfish, patrons may also sit at regular tables when dining at an oyster bar. These bars are most common in areas close to the shore, where fresh oysters can be farmed, harvested and quickly transported to the restaurant. The efficiency of ground transportation has made it possible for restaurateurs to establish oyster bars inland as well. These restaurants often serve oysters in a variety of different preparations, including raw, and may also serve other types of seafood or other cuisines.
An oyster bar specializes in the preparation of oysters, which are bivalve mollusks that can be found in salt water, fresh water, and brackish water throughout the world. Some species can grow to lengths of about 3 feet (0.9 m), though most are harvested when they are smaller than 6 inches (15 cm) long. There are hundreds of species of oyster and all are edible.
There are a number of ways that oysters may be served at an oyster bar. Oysters of different species and those that are grown at specific levels of salinity or water temperature will each have a slightly different flavor. In order to taste the nuance of flavor in an oyster, many people choose to sample them raw and while the oyster is still alive, since consuming a dead raw oyster is a health risk. Raw oysters may be served with a variety of sauces or garnishes, or the oyster bar may grill, steam, fry, bake, or otherwise cook oysters before serving them.
There is a great deal of variety from one oyster bar to the next, and it is possible to find simple establishments that have been in a family for generations as well as elegant restaurants. Though not every oyster bar has a bar area, this is a common feature, especially in more traditional establishments. The bar is usually made out of a material that is easy to clean and that won't soak up the juices of the oyster. Eating these animals can be messy, so oyster bars often set aside a bar area that can be thoroughly cleaned after business hours. Live oysters are also often shucked behind this bar, within sight of the patrons.