Working knowledge What an oyster shucker thinks you should know

Nate Alton at Pearlz on East Bay Street.

Nate Alton is an oyster shucker at Pearlz Oyster Bar’s East Bay Street location. Over nine years, he’s picked up a few tips for customers wanting to make the most of their raw bar visits.

Alton has watched the behavior of customers, and has concluded oysters aren’t responsible for any liaisons — but talking about the possibility is often a route to romance for raw bar patrons. “I think it just helps them along,” Alton says. “We’re first base.”

The belief that it’s unsafe to eat oysters in months with “R”-less names dates back to the days before refrigeration, when live oysters perished soon after harvest in the hot summer heat. While oysters aren’t as tasty at spawning time, the rise of aquaculture means farmers on both coasts can better regulate when products reach their prime. Alton says dubious guests are usually satisfied with his explanation, but adds, “I don’t understand why they came to a raw bar in the first place.”

“A lot of people get the sampler platter and then tell me that they all taste the same,” Alton says. “That’s because they put so much cocktail sauce and horseradish on the oysters that they can’t taste them.” Alton prefers his oysters plain, save for the smallest bit of lime juice: “I mean, lemon’s good, but I think lemon’s been used in the kitchen for years to cover up fishy flavors,” he says. “Lime’s a little more refreshing.”

as told to Hanna Raskin