Get a Dopamine Hit With the Best Oysters in Denver

BY Steph Wilson

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For centuries humans have relied on food, not pills, for a burst of passion, especially oysters, which have a long rumored history as the best way to get the most bang out of your buck, so to speak. But you’ll want to take that with a briny grain of salt, because the bivalves’ effect on libido remains a source of controversy.

Spreading this rumor along with his seed was Giacomo Casanova—the 18th-century Venetian polymath. He certainly would have been posted in every “Are We Dating the Same Guy?” group out there if he were around today and looking to bed over a hundred women. Casanova reportedly ate dozens of oysters at a time to fuel his legendary trysts, which he then wrote about at length in his memoir. 

But Casanova wasn’t the first to link shellfish with the sheets. Oysters had cemented a horny reputation centuries before his time, when some ancient cultures made the observation that these half-shell delicacies resemble female genitalia. This led people to the conclusion that eating oysters would increase their ability to hang out with said genitalia longer and/or more often. 

oyster on the half shell raw
Oysters are known to look like the private parts of a lady. | Photo by Linnea Covington

In today’s world, we don’t make assumptions based on looks, we (should) rely on science and there’s not a whole lot of science to back up the rumors circulating about oysters’ sexual prowess. Not that it matters, because mind over matter often does the trick. Oysters remain the tantric star of any aphrodisiac list despite scant evidence. 

What they’ve found is that oysters are safe to eat and they are horny bastards. Or rather, in scientific terms, they contain a number of very important hormones and minerals that are indeed linked with increased libido, albeit loosely, but no studies have concluded that they can stimulate desire. A 2009 study did show that zinc supplements raised testosterone levels and improved sexual competence, but the study was done on rats, so do with that info what you may. 

That said, mollusks in general are an excellent source of zinc, which helps keep our hormones balanced. The mineral is essential for male sexual function and fertility and zinc deficiency leads to depleted supplies of swimmers in men and greater chances of depression across the gender boards. On the flip side, consuming foods rich in zinc helps maintain the body’s dopamine levels. When we go pleasure seeking, what we’re really looking for is some dopamine. 

Follow the dopamine.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, now is the perfect time to become an anecdotal test subject yourself. And lucky for you and your beloved (or your situationship, or your hand—you do you), you’ll find plenty of places to slurp oysters in Denver. 

A5 Steakhouse

During happy hour, head here to get your oyster shucks for just 2.5 bucks a pop. That’s 50-percent off the regular menu price. Insider tip: If you’re going there for dinner, make your reservation for 5 p.m. and get in some oysters at the happy hour price before your meal. 1600 15th St., a5denver.com 

Angelo’s Taverna 

Fried oyster sliders, oysters chargrilled with chipotle bourbon butter or bacon and gorgonzola, or raw, at Angelo’s pizza and oyster bar you’ve got options. They get their bivalves delivered daily, with both East and West coast options on the half-shell menu. The chargrilled oysters are served hot and bubbling with their signature sauces, so if you’re not really into the whole slimy-slurpy thing, you’re in luck. 620 E. 6th Ave., angelostaverna.com

Blue Island Oyster Bar 

If you couldn’t tell by the name, this place is serious about oysters. How serious? They’ve got their own oyster farm on Long Island. During the happiest of hours at the Shucking Good Hospitality concept, oysters on the half shell are $2.25 a pop, roasted oysters are $3.50, and you can throw back an oyster shooter (vodka, chipotle bloody mix) for $7. 2625 E. 2nd Ave., Denver; and 10008 Commons St., Lone Tree, blueislandoysterbar.com 

Jax Fish and Oyster Bar

In 1994 the first Jax opened in Boulder, and now the company, run by Big Red F, has five locations across the state. To say the oysters are good is an understatement. Not only are the sweet bivalves fresh and farmed just for Jax, but culinary director Sheila Lucero adheres to the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch guidelines. Order the Crackerjax oysters in Denver for just $2 each during happy hour (daily from 3:30 to 5 p.m. and all night Mondays), the type is a proprietary catch from Rappahannock River Co. in Virginia. Various locations, jaxfishhouse.com.

Oliver’s Italian 

From the same Shucking Good Hospitality restaurant group behind Blue Island Oyster Bar and serving the same proprietary oysters from the brand’s own oyster farm is Oliver’s Italian, a gem of an eatery in a suburb to the south. Start your week off right during Shuck Mondays!, when they’ll pop you premium farm-fresh oysters for just $1.25 each all day long. Pro tip: wash them down with the Bianco negroni, it just may be the best cocktail you’ll have all year long and it topped my list in 2023.  4950 S. Yosemite St., Greenwood Village, oliversitalian.com

Traveling Mercies

The freshest arrival to Denver’s oyster bed is technically not in Denver, but right on the Aurora-side of the border. Here, chef Caroline Glover of Annette is behind this new, low-key oyster bar and cocktail lounge on the top floor of the Stanley Marketplace. The ever-changing selection highlights the freshest East and West coast options, all served with mignonette and fresh horseradish for $5 a pop. 2501 Dallas St., Aurora, travelingmerciesbar.com

Call Me Pearl

Tucked in the back corner of The Rally Hotel in McGregor Square and shining like its pearly namesake beneath a massive chandelier, this vibey spot has a daily selection of East and West coasters for $3 each. Once they’ve whetted your appetite, Pearl’s caviar service is the natural next course, especially the sturgeon caviar or salmon roe served with crème fraîche and house-made potato chips. 1600 20th St., callmepearlbar.com 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steph Wilson

Steph Wilson is a writer, editor, and creative maximalist in Denver. She makes magazines for a living and throws color around the world like confetti for fun.

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