Houston’s So Raw: The 10 Best Restaurants for Raw Seafood

Madai crudo with habanero, ginger, garlic, thinly sliced scallion, lime zest and spherized soy sauce “caviar." from Peska Seafood Culture.
Madai crudo with habanero, ginger, garlic, thinly sliced scallion, lime zest and spherized soy sauce “caviar." from Peska Seafood Culture.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

As Houston diners have become more sophisticated, so have their tastes. Just 30 years ago, sushi was regarded as adventurous and the vast majority of available oysters were the big, nonspecific ones from the Gulf.

Thanks to the educational efforts of organizations like Southern Foodways Alliance and Texas Foodways, appellation oysters (oysters with specific characteristics that come from identifiable reefs) from the Gulf are now highly sought-after. Houston’s hunger for raw seafood doesn’t stop there, though. We also are aware of — and want access to — other selections from the world’s vast oceans.

When it comes to raw seafood, Houston has never before had it so good. Here are ten restaurants (and one bar) that go way beyond just oysters on the half shell.

The demi-size Seafood Tower at Julep
The demi-size Seafood Tower at Julep
Chuck Cook

Honorable Mention: Julep

Julep is a Southern-focused bar, yet still has one of the finest seafood towers in Houston. It comes in two sizes. The full size is suitable for a group of four, and the demi is more than adequate for two very hungry people. Included are oysters, lobster, king crab legs, crab "fingers,” baby bay scallops, smoked redfish and pimiento cheese dips, crackers, and pickled shrimp. On Mondays, oysters are $1 each. The type of oyster offered changes based on what’s available, but a recent selection was Deep Cove from Prince Edward Island.

Salmon crudo at Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette
Salmon crudo at Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette
Photo by Troy Fields

10. Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette, 4224 San Felipe

This River Oaks restaurant lives up to the “oysterette” in the name, and brings in both Gulf and East Coast appellation oysters. Other raw delights include Hawaiian-style salmon poke dressed in soy and sesame as well as a daily sushi, sashimi or roll special. The seafood tower of Gulf oysters, jumbo shrimp, littleneck clams, half a lobster, poke and more is called Fort Nonsense and costs $97. Royal Oestra caviar service is also available. In the Heights, also check out Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar for other raw seafood selections. 

The 3rd Coast Plateau seafood tower at Reef. At $49, it's one of the most reasonably priced in Houston.
The 3rd Coast Plateau seafood tower at Reef. At $49, it's one of the most reasonably priced in Houston.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

9. Reef, 2600 Travis

Reef helped champion the return of Gulf appellation oysters. A recent selection include oysters from Jean Lafitte and Crocket reefs off the Texas coast and from Sister Lake in Louisiana. When it comes to Reef's raw-bar offerings, though, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The shrimp shooters in Bloody Mary mix are good and spicy. There is a selection of composed raw dishes as well, such as snapper carpaccio in grapefruit agro dolce (Italian sweet and sour sauce) served alongside garlic bruschetta. The seafood tower is only $49 — one of the best raw seafood values in Houston.

Caracol's namesake conch ceviche
Caracol's namesake conch ceviche
Photo by Chuck Cook

8. Caracol, 2200 Post Oak, #160

Chef Hugo Ortega’s Caracol focuses on the flavorful seafood traditions from the Mexican coast and features several raw seafood items. The ceviche de Caracol, or conch ceviche, is the restaurant's namesake offering and is enhanced with fresh pineapple, ginger and red jalapeño. Other selections include a variety of other ceviches, Gulf oysters on the half shell with salsa bruja, cured snapper crudo and aguachile, or Gulf shrimp cured in lime juice and accented with cucumber and spicy Serrano chile.

The scallop crudo at L'Olivier
The scallop crudo at L'Olivier
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

7. L’Olivier, 240 Westheimer

Chef Oliver Ciesielski’s namesake restaurant has prominently featured a raw bar since the day it opened. It’s rare to see langoustine from New Zealand, but L’Olivier offers these, as well as sea urchin, king crab legs, a daily oyster feature and scallop crudo. The grand execution of the wealth of seafood is the Le Bar A Huîtres, which features 12 mussels, 12 oysters, half of a lobster and a king crab leg for $85. Caviar service is also available.

Seasoned crab fingers amid a landscape of oysters at Bernadine's
Seasoned crab fingers amid a landscape of oysters at Bernadine's
Photo by Chuck Cook

6. Bernadine’s, 1801 North Shepherd

The Southern focus at Bernadine’s includes showcasing some of the best seafood available from the Gulf Coast. The raw-bar selections change daily and might feature red snapper ceviche nestled on top of tissue-thin slices of green tomato and a selection of appellation oysters harvested up and down the coast from Texas to Florida. The I-10 platter includes oysters; marinated blue crab claws; pickled shrimp; smoked fish dip; the restaurant's big, signature planks of chicharrones; pickles; and even some Edwards Surryano ham. For $14, a supplement of East Coast oysters can be added to the $70 platter.



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