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Raw bar with oysters, shrimp and lemons

How to Host A Raw Bar

The experts of Shaw's Crab House show you how it's done

Looking for ways to set this year’s holiday party apart? A stunning shellfish spread is a sure thing! Shaw’s Crab House, the gold standard in Chicago seafood and oyster bars, is an expert in bringing the raw bar experience to your home. The party pros at Shaw’s shared their insider tips and tricks for how to host a raw bar at your upcoming party.

Click here to book your holiday party at Shaw’s Crab House – Chicago or Shaw’s Crab House – Schaumburg.

Bring the “wow” factor

Shaw's Crab House Shellfish Platter

The Shaw’s Crab House team believes shellfish are inherently stunning and instantly elevate any occasion. They suggest arranging a selection of several different kinds of shellfish in row on ice in a deep basin, such as a stainless steel lasagna pan or ice bucket with a linen or cotton towel lining the bottom to help absorb melting ice. Another great option is a farmhouse-style sink filled with ice, if your kitchen or wet bar is equipped with one. Incorporate lots of sliced lemons as a tasty functional element by placing them as dividers between each fish on display. 

The Devil’s in the Details

Shaw's Crab House Oyster Platters on ice

While high quality shellfish speaks for itself, there are some small touches that can make a big difference. Shaw’s recommends displaying shellfish on a bed of crushed ice rather than whole cubes, which ensures they stay perfectly positioned and most importantly, prevent oysters from tilting and the precious oyster liquor from spilling over. Insider tip: Adding some rock salt to the ice will help slow the melting process. Along with lemons, provide a range of dipping sauces, such as hot sauce, horseradish, and a mignonette. Also be sure to provide a receptacle nearby for guests to easily discard empty shells, claws and tails.

Whip up batches of your own sauces with our recipes for RPM Seafood’s Cocktail Sauce or Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab’s house Mustard Sauce.

The World is your Oyster…even at home

Shaw's Crab House roaming oyster shucker


According to Shaw’s Crab House, there’s no reason to be intimidated by handling oysters at home, as you have several approaches to consider. If you’re an adventurous host who’s up for anything, you can purchase unshucked oysters from Shaw’s and impress your guests by shucking them yourself (ask for some pointers from the Shaw’s team when you’re picking up!). For a more hassle-free experience, you can order pre-shucked oysters on the half shell from Shaw’s or kits from the restaurant’s preferred purveyors such as Island Creek Oyster Farm or Taylor Shellfish, which also offer the option to purchase an oyster knife and other tools. And if you’d prefer to be completely hands-off, consider hiring one of Shaw’s roaming oyster shuckers (pictured above), who can engage with your guests and add an entertaining and educational element to the night. Regardless, Shaw’s recommends taking some time to research a little bit about the origin and tasting notes of the oysters you’re serving.

Don’t Forget the Drinks
Shaw's Oysters and Champagne

According to the Shaw’s Crab House team, nothing goes better with oysters and shellfish than bubbly! Pop open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine and raise a toast to the tasty raw bar you created for your guests. It’s a good idea to keep a curated selection of other wine and spirits, sodas, water and non-alcoholic options available, too, to make sure your guests have every option at their fingertips should they need a palate cleanser.

Shake things up with the recipe for a Mignonette Martini by Shaw’s Crab House. This one-of-a-kind creation makes use of savory and tangy mignonette sauce, ensuring a drink that even the most die-hard dirty martini lovers won’t be able to resist.If you’d still prefer to outsource your holiday entertaining, Shaw’s Crab House is perfect for group dining and offers multiple spaces available to host parties of various sizes, from a small intimate dinner to large corporate events, as well as an extensive catering menu.

Check out all of our Lettuce locations that fit the bill for your next event here.

Check out the best Lettuce restaurants for group dining.

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