How to Build a Seafood Bar

Seafood Bar 101: Towers, What to Serve and More

So you’ve decided to have your New Year’s Eve Party at home. You’ve also decided that you need something special to separate your party from the rest of the holiday gatherings your guests have attended. (Party fatigue is real.) You need a seafood bar — with lobster, crab, shrimp and maybe even *gasp* caviar — and perhaps a seafood tower, too. Sound over-the-top? It is, in the good way — and luckily, it’s easier than you think.

What to Serve:

Oysters on the half shell, crab, lobster, shrimp, caviar — the world’s your … well, you know. And if there’s room, add ceviche (find some premade in many of our stores) or clams, which need very little preparation (either serve them raw or steam them).

Oysters on the Half Shell. Ask our Seafood team members to shuck the oysters* for you and transfer the meat and liquid liquor from the oysters into a storage container for easy transport. Keep the types of oysters separate and labeled. Don’t forget to take the shells and ask for a few big bags of crushed ice, too. At home, keep the oysters cold until just before serving. When it’s go-time, scoop the crushed ice into your serving platter and nestle each of the shells into the ice. Spoon the oysters and liquor into the shells.

If raw oysters on the half shell aren’t your jam, check out these cooked options — Buffalo Grilled or Baked Oysters Rockefeller. (If you’re cooking in the oven, use a cast-iron pan with rock salt to keep the shells in place and retain the heat for serving.)

Crab. When you buy steamed crab legs or claws, ask a Seafood team member to crack them for you, so it’s easy for your guests to pull apart. If you’re buying whole crabs, they can crack them, too.

Lobster. If you’re having a small gathering, then, by all means, serve individual lobster tails. Otherwise, slice steamed lobster tail into bite-sized pieces.

Shrimp. Serve cold, cooked large shrimp piled on top of ice — that will keep everything chilled. Use peeled, deveined, tail-on shrimp for the easiest guest experience.

How to Build a Tower

Here’s the basic formula for a two-tiered tower, if you choose to go that route.

Top layer: Anything cooked. Crab legs or claws, lobster and shrimp with accompanying sauces such as a cocktail sauce or garlicky aioli or chile oil. Plus, caviar with crème fraîche. Add lemon wedges for zing.

Bottom layer: Any raw seafood. Think oysters on the half shell with lemon wedges and small ramekins of sauces all nestled in crushed ice. For the sauces, check out Traditional Cocktail Sauce, Spicy Garlic Oil and Classic Mignonette. Consider setting out your favorite hot sauce and spicy toppings such as finely diced jalapeños or freshly grated horseradish too. (Make sure there’s no cross-contamination between cooked and raw seafood.)

No tower? No problem. You can still create a show-stopping seafood bar with a couple of large, wide, high-sided platters piled with seafood on a bed of crushed ice and studded with lemon wedges and ramekins of dipping sauces. Tip: Freeze the platters before using to keep things cooler, longer.

The Right Tools

You (or your local fishmonger) will be doing a lot of the prep work in advance for your guests, but be sure to set out seafood picks for pre-cracked crab legs or claws and tiny forks for oysters, as well as napkins or individual finger bowls with lemon water to rinse off sticky fingers.


  • You'll need crushed ice. Lots of crushed ice.
  • Keep the seafood and the serving platters cold until the last minute.
  • Set out a few discard bowls for shells.

After all, there’s no better way to ring in a new year … than with seafood.

*This service is not available in all stores.


Consuming raw or undercooked seafood or shellfish may increase your risk of foodborne illness.

Explore more