I love oysters. Briny, salty, a little weird, and distinctly oceanic, they’re one of my favourite foods in the world. They do carry a certain amount of elegance, which makes sense because as you throw back these beautiful bivalves, you’re basically swallowing $1-4 at a time. It’s so worth it, though! SO worth it. Splitting a dozen (or two…) with a friend or partner is a very special, absurdly delicious experience and I can’t recommend it enough.
However, the $$$$ problem that often arises around oysters is not just in the price of the oysters themselves: it’s that most restaurants that serve them serve other dishes that are very, very expensive. Oysters are not particularly filling, so it’s easy to end up truly and honestly destroying the bank in one meal. Even if you just get a round of oysters and an entree per person, it’s not unlikely that you’ll end up spending well over $60 per person with tax and tip. Factor in wine, an appetizer, maybe a dessert- good luck not fainting like a renaissance lady when you see the bill.
FEAR NOT, YOUNG AND BUDGET-LIMITED OYSTER ENTHUSIASTS! I’ve discovered a way to enjoy oysters at a nice restaurant AND get full without spending more than $40 per person, tops. It’s still a pricey meal, to be sure, but it’s not outrageous for a special occasion or a treat.
The formula is called Apps & Oysters. I don’t know about you, but to me, the appetizer section is almost always the most appealing part of the menu. High-end mains often fall flat for me because they cost so much but don’t often deliver as much deliciousness as I would hope. $28 for roasted branzino? $25 for a fancy pasta dish? $40+ for a steak that I might not be able to finish? I’m 22, I can’t afford that.
Apps, though! Appetizers are where joy lives. Fried calamari. Small portions of mac and cheese. Tuna or salmon tartares, crudos, ceviches, or tatakis. Gazpachos. Chowders. Satays. Queso fundido. Mozzarella sticks. Caprese and caesar salads. Literally all the best foods live in the appetizer section- and they often cost half the price of an entree or less.
SO! Enough rambling. Here’s the advice.
Plan to go with a friend or a date to a nice restaurant that takes pride in their oysters, like Lucille’s Oyster Dive, Maestro SVP, Huis Clos, or Notkins. Have a glass or 2 of wine BEFORE you go- as IF we can afford the markup on restaurant wine.
If you’re lucky, the restaurant will provide bread, so don’t shy away from the basket and the beautifully-shaped or flavoured butter. We’re going for an economically-savvy experience here!
Order an order of oysters to start, and enjoy them. Enjoy them so much!
Then, each order 1 or 2 (depending on the price) appetizers to share. Get a nice mix of fried and fresh, and of protein and carb-heavy. If the appetizers are on the cheaper side, you might be able to squeeze a glass of wine into the budget, but it’s not always necessary or possible. For oysters, sacrifices must be made.
By the end of the meal, you’ll be full, happy, and completely satisfied by having eaten a wide variety of delicious appetizers AND having indulged in a platter of oysters. Skip the dessert at the restaurant and go for ice cream afterwards if you’re craving something sweet- I can personally attest to the wonderful pairing that comes from Fancy Dinner + McFlurry.
Go forth and dine, friends!