A New York Times food critic has written it’s worth the two-hour-plus drive southwest from Seattle to Chester Club & Oyster Bar, in South Bend, Washington for “what might be the best fried oysters in the country.” They’d better be, as I’ve spontaneously decided to backtrack an hour to where I was the day before just to order a basket of six oysters and fries, the $8 bill probably less than the extra gas to get here. Things are looking a mite sketchy as I enter the dimly lit bar, adorned with two big pool tables at the front and a swinging half-door into the men’s room at the back. As well, these are deep-fried oysters, though the oil is frequently changed and not strained, to avoid a greasy taste.
All my doubts are instantly forgotten with the first bite into these lightly breaded, smouldering pockets of milky heaven. Strange as it sounds, they taste almost raw and so good I dare not sully them with tartar sauce or a squeeze of lemon. The Willapa Bay, outside the bar’s window, is the oyster capital of the west coast, producing one-sixth of the nation’s harvest. But consumers elsewhere sure ain’t getting them this fresh.