Chicago

Where to Eat Oysters Outside in Chicago Right Now

Indulge a little.

Courtesy of Quality Crab and Oyster Bah
Courtesy of Quality Crab and Oyster Bah
Courtesy of Quality Crab and Oyster Bah

Summertime, and the living is‚Ķ not so easy. It seems like we could all use an excuse to cast our 2020 troubles aside for a few moments and focus on the finer things in life — namely oysters, preferably served raw and paired with a crisp lager or glass of bubbly. Here are a few fantastic places ready to help you pamper your inner self-care queen without endangering your health or the health of others. Just remember — if you plan on dining in, try to reserve your table ahead of time and, for crying out loud, wear a mask, Chicago.

Courtesy of Quality Crab and Oyster Bah
Courtesy of Quality Crab and Oyster Bah
Courtesy of Quality Crab and Oyster Bah

Quality Crab and Oyster Bah 

Lincoln Park
This Lincoln Park crab shack gets their fish flown in daily, ensuring that each delicate oyster lands on your plate as sparkling fresh as the day it was scooped up from the sea floor. And while you’re welcome to reserve a socially distanced spot at the “bah” to partake, you can also enjoy these palate pleasers from the comfort and safety of your sundrenched back deck by taking advantage of the spot’s speedy take-out and delivery service or by loading up in-person at their new and improved Saturday Seafood Market.

Frontier

West Town
Reserve your spot on this sunny Milwaukee Avenue terrace and prepare to feast on platter after platter of Chef Brian Jupiter’s famous char-grilled oysters, dusted with bread crumbs and nutty parmesan cheese then fired to perfection atop the open-air patio grill. Punch-style cocktails and an onslaught of ice cold beers are on hand to wash it all down.

Chop Shop 

Wicker Park
Ascend to this sprawling Wicker Park butcher-deli-restaurant-venue hybrid’s colorful rooftop patio on Wednesdays from 5pm to 7pm and you’ll be rewarded with a Humpday deal to end all deals: $1 oysters, shucked and dressed to order, escorted to the dance by half-priced bottles of wine. After you’ve had your briny fill, don’t forget to pick up a few backyard BBQ-bound NY Strips from the meat counter on your way out the door.

Courtesy of Dusek's
Courtesy of Dusek’s
Courtesy of Dusek’s

Dusek’s¬†

Pilsen
This Michelin-vetted Pilsen mainstay offers a rotating selection of top-of-the-line oysters on the half shell to both patio-goers and those opting to carry out their orders. Pair those slippery suckers with one of the effortlessly cool gastropub’s many local brews or keep the good times rolling with a delicious batched and bottled “pocket cocktail” to-go.

Avec 

West Loop
This One Off Hospitality Group restaurant row pioneer is back at it, showering hungry Randolph Street patio hounds with award-winning Mediterranean-meets-Midwestern fare on a strict new reservations-only policy. The pared down outdoor menu spans the greatest hits, featuring dreamy wood fired oysters swathed in merguez-spiced butter — the perfect prelude to a heaping serving of the joint’s world famous chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates, and, of course, a few glasses of hand picked, small batch wine.

Eric Allix Rogers / Flickr
Eric Allix Rogers / Flickr
Eric Allix Rogers / Flickr

Calumet Fisheries

Calumet Heights
This far Southside institution has been keeping Chicago’s slow-and-low smoked seafood dream alive since opening their humble family-owned doors back in 1948. The counter-serve operation continues to carry the torch today, dishing up bargain priced bivalves ($6.69 for a half order, $12.49 for the full) alongside other freshly caught oceanic delights for take-out seven days a week.

Tortoise Club 

River North
Don your most stylish facemask and traipse on over to this timelessly handsome lounge’s sidewalk patio Wednesday through Friday from 5pm to 6:45pm sharp to indulge in one of Chicago’s swankiest oyster happy hour deals. A single dollar gets you one expertly shucked bivalve or plump cocktail shrimp — your choice — both of which go down pretty dang easy when set to a sultry soundtrack of frosty gin martinis and live jazz.

GT Fish & Oyster 

River North
This sleek River North raw bar emporium is backed by the legendary Boka Restaurant Group, so you already know it’s going to be good. And the airy space fails to disappoint, with neatly appointed tables spilling out onto the sidewalk and a vast array of pristinely outfitted oysters hailing from all over the world. Both the fried version (crunchy oysters layered with zesty kimchi and peanuts and cradled in a soft slider bun) and their mignonette-laden uncooked counterparts are available for onsite and at-home enjoyment, the latter presented unshucked and accompanied by a shiny new oyster knife for a distinctly DIY edge.

Courtesy of Meghan Leigh
Courtesy of Meghan Leigh
Courtesy of Meghan Leigh

Ina Mae Tavern 

Wicker Park
Chef Jupiter strikes again with this New Orleans-accented Wicker Park winner, stocked with an inviting sidewalk patio that beckons passersby with friendly faces and a whole boatload of mouthwatering Southern comforts. Oyster-lovers have a few options here but the real ones know to make a beeline for the Po’Man’s Seafood Tower, a lavish, finger-licking pileup of fried shrimp, oysters, crawfish, and catfish sailing into the sunset on a bed of hushpuppies and crispy potatoes.

Courtesy of Prime and Provisions
Courtesy of Prime and Provisions
Courtesy of Prime and Provisions

Prime & Provisions

River North
This elegant yet refreshingly approachable downtown steakhouse excels when it comes to seafood, hosting a standout roster of both East and West Coast oysters as well as a magnificent shellfish tower set ablaze with ginger mignonette, signature cocktail sauce, and tangy meyer lemon mustard sauce. Place your order for contactless delivery or curbside pick-up or suit up and reserve a spot on the large patio for sweeping riverfront views.

The Bar at Moody Tongue 

South Loop
Craft beer might have laid the foundation for this South Loop stunner’s recently reopened patio space but the beloved microbrewery’s culinary program can undoubtedly stand on its own two polished feet. Among a sea of cheffy goodness float the raw oysters, served on the half shell with puckery rice wine mignonette. Cut the brine with an inventive summer brew like Moody Tongue’s own Steeped Emperor’s Lemon Saison, a citrusty 6.3% crusher with just a hint of drying spice.

RPM Seafood 

River North
The latest addition to the Lettuce Entertain You’s sophisticated RPM fleet, this fish-focused enterprise perches along the scenic Chicago River and serves up a bounty of crudo, tartare, and yes, jaw-dropping seafood towers to sunbathing patio partiers by reservation only. Go big with cascading tiers overflowing with prawns, Maine lobster, Alaskan king crab legs, and raw oysters or roll solo with chilled oysters on the half shell decked out with game-changing yuzu granita.¬†

Bellemore
Bellemore
Bellemore

Bellemore 

West Loop
Every dish landing on this upmarket Fulton Market outpost’s lush patio showcases Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos’ unparalleled talent, true, but the master’s touch really shines when it comes to oysters. The freshies — Candadian Chebooktook for the summer menu but look out for regular updates — come with fermented tomato, lemon, and horseradish for kick, and run just a dollar a pop during happy hour (weekdays from 4pm to 6pm). Stay tuned for cooler weather when Chef’s lauded oyster pie might just make a comeback.Sign up here for our daily Chicago email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Meredith Heil is a contributor for Thrillist. 

Chicago

Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

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John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.

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