Find deals on oysters and special menu items at participating restaurants all week. Photo: ORP

Slurp! Bay Restaurants Celebrate National Oyster Week

What’s better than taking part in National Oyster Day (recognized every August 5)? How about devoting a whole week to the Bay’s favorite bivalve?

This week (August 1-6), Bay-friendly businesses in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia are holding National Oyster Week to help support the restoration of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  

Oysters are a vital part to the health of the Bay, filtering the water and removing excess nutrients like nitrogen from the water, according to NOAA Fisheries. Oysters grow on reefs and help support the economy, fueling the oystering and aquaculture industries. 

Allison Guercio from the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) says that the organization was inspired by the nationally-held oyster day, August 5. ORP wants to push National Oyster Week as an opportunity for education on oysters. Bay-centric businesses go out of their way to set aside used shells for recycling pick-up, saving them more than $700,000 in waste collection fees. Organizations like ORP recycle the shells, which can then become home to 10 times as many babies. ORP relies on these restaurants, members of the Shell Recycling Alliance, to provide the shells critical for oyster restoration efforts.  

National Oyster Week raises awareness about shell recycling and oyster restoration on the Bay. Photo: ORP

The Shell Recycling Alliance ensures that “no shell is left behind.” Recycling discarded oyster shells is the most natural substrate for rebuilding oyster reefs. Shells that would normally be dumped in landfills, are now recycled, cleaned and treated with baby oysters and returned to the Bay.  

Bay seafood lovers can choose from around 50 restaurants around the Bay that support the efforts of ORP. Many have great deals and even special oyster-oriented menus!  Find a full list of participating Maryland, D.C. and Virginia restaurants here.

If you’re taking advantage of the deals this week, what kind of oysters should you order? John Hogan from SeaSalt, a seafood-focused restaurant planned to open in downtown Annapolis in mid-to-late October, says there’s no clear-cut answer. He described oysters as people, there are all different kinds and ways to prepare them.  

“There isn’t a best oyster,” Hogan said, and trying oysters from all around the world is a great opportunity to learn and try new things.  

If you are buying your own oysters to bring home, Maryland Best suggests when buying them raw, make sure they are fully shut and smell fresh. They should feel heavy for their size, meaning they are still full of the “liquor” which keeps them plump.  

National Oyster Week is sponsored by Maryland’s Best Seafood as well as Jim and Janice Perdue of Perdue Farms.  

ORP is the nation’s largest recycling network for oyster shells, collecting 36,000 bushels of shells from about 200 restaurants and 70 public drop sites in the mid-Atlantic region. In total, 258,044 bushels have been reclaimed, which is about 9,030 tons of shells being saved from landfills. This supports the planting of over 1.29 billion oysters in local waters. 

The 10 Chesapeake Bay tributaries selected for oyster reef restoration were Harris Creek, the Little Choptank, Tred Avon, upper St. Mary’s and Manokin rivers in Maryland as well as the Great Wicomico, Lafayette, Lower York, Lynnhaven and Piankatank rivers in Virginia. Maryland has completed restoration on all but one.

-Dorothy Hood