Cool weather in South Carolina means the time is perfect for oysters, whether you enjoy the succulent, briny mollusks steamed at a festival or in your backyard or served raw on the half shell at a restaurant.
The state's oyster season generally runs from September or October through April, but the coldest months just seem best for slurping down these tasty beauties.
If you don't want to buy a bushel of oysters and prepare them for friends, here are some places that you can go to enjoy them.
Bowens Island Restaurant in Charleston should be at the top of every oyster-lovers list. Not only are the roasted oysters perfect, but this place is a South Carolina institution - so much so that the James Beard Foundation named it an American Classic restaurant in 2006.
This is far from a fancy place; indoor restrooms weren't added until 1996. But for more than 60 years, people have been drawn to Bowens Island for the oysters and the sensational view of Folly Creek.
After fire destroyed the original restaurant in October 2006, a second-story restaurant was built over the old site. Diners still go down to the original oyster room where their orders are steamed on a pit and then shoveled onto the tables.
Festivals such as the Lowcountry Oyster Festival, which claims to be the world's largest oyster festival. We're talking about 80,000 pounds of oysters brought in for this festival at Boone Hall Plantation in Charleston. (This year, it's 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26.) There's also the South Carolina Oyster Festival in Columbia in November, and many others throughout the state.
For oysters and a fine dining experience, consider The Ordinary in Charleston. This restaurant opened in late 2012 to great anticipation. Even before The Ordinary opened, Southern Living Magazine listed it as one of "50 reasons we're thankful to be Southern,". Chef Mike Lata has made the oyster one of the stars of this beautiful restaurant, and he wants diners to recognize the unique tastes of oysters grown in various spots of the coastal region.
At Bluffton Family Seafood House, you can get steamed oysters, oysters on the half shell, oysters Rockefeller, fried oysters or a fried oyster po' boy. Owners Larry and Tina Toomer run the Bluffton Oyster Company so they have a ready supply of fresh oysters from the May River.
Bimini's Oyster Bar, which has been in Myrtle Beach for years and opened in a Greenville location in 2012, is a laid-back place to get oysters and other seafood. Often there are oyster specials during happy hour.
A fine dining spot in Greenville that serves oysters many ways is Rick Erwin's Nantucket Seafood.
Pearlz Oyster Bar serves oysters on the half shell, oyster sliders, fried oysters and oyster shooters. Pearlz is in Columbia and in two locations in Charleston.
At The Oyster Bar in Columbia, feast on raw or steamed oysters while the shuckers do all the work for you.