Photograph by James Wojcik
Raw-bar purists maintain that the only way to consume an oyster is uncooked. But open-minded eaters know that warming the bivalve up and dressing it with sauce enhances the flavor—especially in the fall, when its briny tang begins to peak. Right now, chefs are dipping into America's fat-drenched past and resurrecting the dish named for John D. Rockefeller, a man as rich as the ingredients in his namesake oysters: butter, bacon, spinach, bread crumbs, and Pernod. In spins on the classic, culinary innovators are swapping bacon for braised pork belly and anise-flavored liqueurs for herbs like tarragon. Some, like Gray Kunz at Grayz in New York, are cooking the add-ons but sparing the oyster the heat—a compromise that should please sticklers. JJ Goode
Where to Find the Best Tributes to the Classic:
1. Grayz (New York City)
This time of year, Gray Kunz lays diminutive raw Kusshi oysters on top of creamed spinach and trades bacon for crispy fried shallots.
13-15 West 54th Street, 212-262-4600
2. Fruition (Denver)
Chef Alex Seidel wraps thin slices of potato around oysters, pan-cooks them, and stacks the results Jenga-style on top of spinach, bacon, and buttery leek sauce.
1313 East 6th Avenue, 303-831-1962
3. Park Kitchen (Portland, Oregon)
Chef-owner Scott Dolich fries panko-crusted Pacific oysters to a crisp and serves them with cream-and-Pernod-spiked spinach and braised pork belly.
422 NW Eighth Avenue, 503-223-7275
4. Q Roadhouse (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)
The Wellfleet oyster is the star of chef Roger Freedman's take, which is topped with pancetta, spinach, and tarragon cream.
2550 Moose Wilson Road, 307-739-0700
5. MiLa (New Orleans)
Slade Rushing and Allison Vines-Rushing poach Gulf oysters, cap them with bacon, and rest them on spinach flavored with licorice root.
817 Common Street, 504-412-2580
Courtesy of Antoine's
New Orleans can claim many culinary triumphs—bananas Foster and the po' boy among them—but none is as widely imitated as oysters Rockefeller. Jules Alciatore devised the dish in 1899 at his father's French Quarter restaurant, Antoine's, in response to a shortage of snails. To this day, the original recipe remains a secret. But all you really need to know is that there's plenty of butter.
713 Rue Saint Louis, 504-581-4422