Pearl Oyster Bar

Oyster Bar | Seafood
One of the best

You can eat some of the finest, and most expensive, seafood in the world in New York City, at restaurants like Le Bernardin and Oceana. What interests us more, though, are places like the Pearl Oyster Bar, a casual joint in the same urban spirit as the Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco or the bar at The Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station.

The Pearl is tiny. One side is the bar itself, and there’s also a newer adjoining dining room. The bar is the fun place to be. Your “bartender” will pour wines and beers, but this is really a place to eat, not drink. Tell the bartender-waitress what you’ll have and, a few minutes later, you’ll be dining on first-class seafood.

The owner, Rebecca Charles, spent many a summer in Maine, and Pearl (named after her grandmother) specializes in the simple classics of the Maine summertime coast. The steaming dish of clam chowder is perfect, in large part because it doesn’t try to be anything more than great clam chowder; no lemongrass accents, no diced chorizo, no chefly reinterpretations beyond treating this like real food, not beach grub. Prepared by people who know how to cook, and using good ingredients like fresh clams and potatoes and good bacon and cream, this is the kind of chowder you long for, clammy and lightly creamy, and a little smoky; a balanced chowder.

Pearl Oyster Bar is locally renowned for its lobster roll, and for good reason. The toasted bun is lavishly buttered, the freshly cooked, cool lobster meat is tender, not chewy, and full of fresh lobster flavor, and it’s luxuriously mayo’d. You won’t find the enormous chunks of lightly dressed lobster that you’d encounter at Red’s or Kennebunkport’s Clam Shack. This is more a cold lobster salad roll, and it compares favorably to similarly styled rolls up and down the Maine coast. An enormous pile of dark, crisp, salty shoestring fries comes with.

There’s a lot of other seafood to choose from (not by any means all New England-centric), such as the various roasted and grilled fishes, raw clams and oysters (of course), whole lobsters and scallops and mussels, and beautiful crunchy shrimp in either a cocktail or served “salt-crusted,” meant to be eaten shell and all. Homey desserts are available, some made with that quintessential Maine fruit, the blueberry, some made with outstanding local ice cream.

This is the sort of comfortable place, serving high quality seafood, we’d visit constantly if we lived in the area. The catch is this: the bar is small, and enormously popular. There are no reservations, and a long wait for a seat at the bar is to be expected. One way around this is to queue up about ten minutes before Pearl opens. You should be able to snag one of those precious counter seats as soon as you’re inside.

Note: Ms. Charles has written a particularly interesting cookbook/autobiography. You can get a copy at the restaurant (and, of course, at bookstores).

What to Eat
Pearl Oyster Bar, Lobster Roll With Shoestring Fries
Lobster Roll With Shoestring Fries
The bun is glistening with butter and the lobster is perfectly cooked. You'd consider yourself lucky to find a lobster salad roll like this along the Maine coast.
Pearl Oyster Bar, New England Clam Chowder w/ Smoked Bacon
New England Clam Chowder w/ Smoked Bacon
We've long believed that Abbott's in CT serves the best version of clear chowder (generally found in Rhode Island). Pearl's chowder may be our favorite in the creamy style (that would be the Northeast creamy style, not the ultra-thick Northwest style).
Pearl Oyster Bar, Salt Crusted Shrimp
Salt Crusted Shrimp
Deveined, but otherwise left whole, these shrimp are meant to be eaten unpeeled. The shell and legs turn super-crunchy in the frying. There's a spectacularly good homemade tartar sauce alongside.
Pearl Oyster Bar, Pan-Roasted Skate
Pan-Roasted Skate
Pan-roasted skate was a fish special one evening. Perfectly cooked. Sweet corn ragout on the side.
Pearl Oyster Bar, Steamers
This steel bucket contains steamers equal to the best New England has to offer. Sweet-tasting clam nirvana!
Pearl Oyster Bar, Gazpacho with Lobster and Shrimp
Gazpacho with Lobster and Shrimp
A cool bowl of gazpacho topped with lightly cooked shrimp and lobster meat.
Pearl Oyster Bar, Blueberry Pie
Blueberry Pie
Rebecca Charles' book is named Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie. That should be a clue. The filling is lightly touched with lemon zest, the pie topped with a brown sugar crumble. Vanilla ice cream should be mandatory.
Pearl Oyster Bar, Butterscotch Praline Parfait
Butterscotch Praline Parfait
Don't overlook Pearl's desserts! We love the high-quality ice cream, homemade butterscotch sauce, and slightly bitter bits of crunchy praline in this parfait.
Directions and Hours
closed now
Monday6 pm - 11 pm
Tuesday6 pm - 11 pm
Wednesday6 pm - 11 pm
Thursday6 pm - 11 pm
Friday6 pm - 11 pm
Saturday6 pm - 11 pm
This restaurant is featured in the following eating tours.
9 stops | 438 MILES | 8 hr 29 min

The northeast has four main kinds of clam chowder. Manhattan is tomato-red and full of vegetables, rarely served northeast of New York City. South Coast, a specialty of Connecticut and Rhode Island, has neither tomatoes nor cream, but is clear and brothy with salt-pork savor and potatoes. Rhode Island (a rarity these days) is light…

Open Year Round
Meals Served
Lunch, Dinner, Dessert
Credit Cards Accepted
Alcohol Served
Outdoor Seating

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