Arts & Culture, Sip & Savor

Fittin’ in at your next Oyster Roast!

Oyster roasts have been a part of Southern social life dating back to the middle of the 20th Century. Lowcountry natives were raised with this tradition and understand the ins and outs of this culinary experience, but newcomers face their first experience with trepidation and concerns over not fitting in.

Before we offer some general oyster roast etiquette, let’s dispel the myth around what months are best for oysters. You may hear people around the Lowcountry mention prime oyster season is only during months that end in “R”. Actually, Charleston’s oyster season includes all months that have an “R” in it, running from September to April. Over these months, the water temperature drops and the oyster beds are ripe for picking.

If you’ve never been to an oyster roast, or felt a bit awkward during your first experience, we’ve compiled a list of things that are good to know before you start shucking.

1. Come prepared. It’s a good idea to bring your own oyster knife. Knives will be provided, but they are sparse and you’ll look like an old pro if you bring your own. Charleston Cooks on East Bay Street has a nice selection. The Messermeister Oyster Knife is our favorite. It’s good to use a cloth or glove when handling the sharp shells, so bring your own glove. We’ve been told it’s a “Southern thing,” but it’s never a bad idea to bring your own beer koozie, too.

2. Know how to open an oyster. When oysters are steamed they start to open up a little. Many people think it’s best to open the oyster at this seam. On the other side of the oyster is a hinge. If you open the oysters from this angle, it’s cleaner and takes less time.

3. What to drink. Beer is the drink of choice at most casual Southern affairs. If you’re looking for a local brew, check out Coast Brewing Company. When it’s cold, Bourbon is always a good choice. Bloody Marys are great because they play on the cocktail sauce and lemon. Some of our favorite mixes are Charleston Bloody Mary Mix and Fat and Juicy Mix. If the night lasts long enough, you could end up making Oyster Shooters—a combination of vodka, cocktail sauce and a raw oyster. Although champagne is often paired with oysters, you can bet a longneck Bud you won’t see one.

4. Talk like you’ve done this before. Throw “‘bo” around whenever you get a chance. Bo’ is local vernacular and short for “boy”, i.e., “Hey ‘bo, you gotta check out these oysters. We got them from up around Bull’s Bay”.

These days most oysters are steamed in an aluminum pot attached to a propane tank. Purists still use a fire pit with a sheet of steel on top. The oysters are placed on the sheet, covered with a wet burlap feed sack and steamed to perfection. Ask your host if they’ve ever roasted their oysters the old-fashioned way. Might win you a few points.

5. The gift of giving. You’ll need to thank your host; it’s the polite thing to do. If you’re looking for a hostess gift, try the Shops at Belmond Charleston Place. If your host loves southern cooking, stop by Tommy Bahama and pick up the Flavors of the Southern Coast cookbook, or grab a Charleston-themed Pineapple Bottle Opener, the perfect gift of friendship and hospitality.

6. What to wear. Despite being Southern traditions, oyster roasts aren’t fancy affairs. Jeans and khakis are always welcome. Footwear is key as you will be outdoors and possibly near a bonfire. Ladies, skip the heels and pick boots for comfort. If you really want to dress the part, King Street is lined with stores that can outfit your evening. Dumas is the perfect store for a gentleman’s preppy Southern attire.

Did we miss anything? If you have others tips to help readers fit in better at their next oyster roast please share.

If you missed the “World’s Largest Oyster Roast”  at Boone Hall Planation, during the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival, don’t fret. There are plenty of local roasts to attend. Many restaurants feature oysters, and a local favorite is “Oysters on the Point.” This once a month winter series features local, steamed oysters, live music and plenty of beverage choices.

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What is Hidden Charleston?

Welcome to Hidden Charleston! Hidden Charleston is about the best of Charleston. The sights, tastes and experiences, which delight both first-time visitors or locals who have called this city “home” their entire life.

Join us as we explore the many unique aspects that blend together to make Charleston a one of a kind destination. From charm, rich history and southern hospitality to amazing beaches shopping, and culinary experiences.

And along the way, we’ll unearth the city’s hidden gems, as seen by the team at Charleston Place. Whether you’re a local or planning your first visit to Charleston, we think you’ll enjoy the content on these pages. Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect from Hidden Charleston:

Discovery: Authentic discoveries and “off the beaten” path adventures in and around Charleston.

History: History is alive in Charleston. We’ll share tips on the sights to see and the best way to explore them.

Fork + Glass: If it’s about food, wine and spirits, you’ll find it here. It’s why Charleston is one of the country’s top foodie destinations.

Staff Picks:  Our team’s favorite picks across a variety of topics. We’ll also highlight members of our team and what they like to do when they’re not welcoming visitors to historic Charleston.

Southern Vibe: Arts and culture, nightlife, shopping, health and fitness and more.

News + Offers: What’s happening around Charleston Place. News, events and the latest offers to help you plan your next visit.

We want to hear from you. Please comment on our posts with your own thoughts. Also, let us know about the posts you like and what else you’re interested in learning.

On behalf of everyone at Charleston Place, we are happy you stopped by. Welcome to Hidden Charleston!

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