Half Shell Raw Bar, Key West, Florida

While we were in Key West, we all (except David, who had a cold) took a sunset cruise aboard the Schooner America 2.0, a sailboat pattered after the Schooner America that won the first America’s Cup back in 1851.  It’s a lovely boat, with plenty of room for us (here, Liza holding Lily and Michael holding his tongue rather than complain about  another #?*! picture, and also holding a local IPA)

america 20

and plenty of hors d’oeuvres and drinks.  The wind was brisk and it was a lovely sail.

Nancy and I decided to walk around Key West that afternoon before we set sail, and, December being a month with an “R”, I decided to get some oysters.  I had been urged by no less than Al Hudson to hit the Thirsty Mermaid’s Happy Hour (6 for $5), but by oysters time, it would have been too far to go, eat, and return in time for me to get our tickets.  So I settled for the Half Shell Raw Bar, right on the harbor.

The Half Shell is a big, sprawling place with an upscale waterfront dive ambience.  The Half Shell is very popular, with most of the tables filled at 3:30 in the afternoon.  (The bar was full at 3:30, but that’s pretty routine in Key West.)  The Half Shell was busy enough that I was in some fear of getting my oysters in time.  Nancy and I sat right by the shucker, well positioned to urge him on,

half shell 1

and, to avoid being late,  I limited myself to a mere half dozen.

half shell

The oysters were good.  These are not the quarter-sized oysters that run $3 each in Washington, but good, meaty oysters.  They were fresh and well chilled, and had a moderately salty flavor.  I only added a few drops of lime juice to each oyster, but I appreciated the availability of the extra horseradish with the cocktail sauce.   I mixed it in — that is, I mixed some cocktail sauce into the horseradish — and heaped it on saltines.  It’s delicious and a wonderful way to clear your sinuses and frontal lobes.

All in all, it was a good experience, and I recommend the Half Shell oysters, especially to anyone who’s at the Harbor pressed for time.  Personally, however, in the interest of the advancement of science, on my next trip to Key West I plan to take Al’s advice and try the oysters at the Thirsty Mermaid — or maybe bounce between them doing an in-depth taste-test.

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