New book charts Chesapeake Bay oysters, restaurants and raw bars

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Bill Wade Chesapeake Oyster Lovers co-authorWhether you're a full-blown oyster lover or still a little unsure about the “other” shellfish of the Chesapeake Bay, the new “Chesapeake Oyster Lovers' Handbook” is a handy guide to exploring and enjoying bivalves of the Bay.

Along with profiles of more than 120 oyster houses and raw bars in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, authors Susan Elnicki Wade and Bill Wade also include stories and interviews with industry insiders, a little bit of history and education, a map of oyster growing regions, and a handy index and taste chart.

The meat of the pocketbook-sized 352-page book is a guide to restaurants and raw bars that carry fresh, local oysters year-round, organized by state and then region. For Maryland, that includes Baltimore, Northern Maryland, Annapolis and Eastport, DC's Maryland Suburbs and Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore.

“The Chesapeake Bay is experiencing an oyster boom time,” Bill says. “Thanks to new oyster-growing techniques, the bivalve population is escalating and is available year-round, which debunks the muth that they're only eaten in months with the letter 'R.' As a result, exciting new oyster houses are popping up at an astonishing rate around the region.”

Oyster House SignWhile many establishments serve oysters, the Wades focused on places that incorporate Chesapeake Bay oysters as part of their identity. A restaurant may list multiple brands on its menu or highlight different ones each week on a chalkboard, Susan explains. A shucker on staff and an oyster bar also show commitment, as does serving oysters year-round.

Readers will encounter expected establishments, but are likely to discover several surprises as well. In Annapolis, for example, Susan says many oyster fans will think of O'Brien's Oyster Bar and Restaurant, but points out that Blackwall Hitch and Boatyard Bar and Grill in Eastport may be a bit more unexpected.

“Blackwall Hitch is really into oysters,” Susan says, citing a huge oyster display and an oyster bar in the back of the restaurant. And while patrons of the Boatyard easily notice the big bar at the front when they enter, you have to walk around to the back of the restaurant to find the big raw bar and ice-filled cases with signs noting daily selections.

Diners will appreciate each entry's “Atmosphere Meter,” which rates the establishment on a scale from casual to formal. Profiles tell why a location made the list, what to expect, and a bit of a story as well as photos.

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