DINER’S NOTEBOOK: Oyster season is upon us

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Oyster season is in full swing, and so is Chicago’s oyster festival season. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

BY ANTHONY TODD | FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

The old saw about “Never eating oysters in a month without an ‘r’ in it” is obsolete hooey, mostly spouted by annoying people at cocktail parties. In the days of air freight and refrigerated transport, oysters are delicious and safe all year long – though an expert might be able to detect slight variations in taste.

Despite this modern reality, the month of September is still “the start of oysters season” and oyster bars, restaurants and seafood shacks have come up with specials and festivals to make any bivalve lover’s heart happy.

Shaw’s Crab House is about to start celebrating thirty years of shucking. The beginning of the party? Shaw’s Oyster Fest Block Party. On September 26, from 3 till 10 in the afternoon, guests will be able to munch on all the seafood they can handle while enjoying live music, beer, wine entertainment and competitions. The oyster bar expects to serve more than 15,000 oysters, and for the real oyster lovers out there, there’s a “slurp off” for a $1000 prize.

Tickets are available now for $25 at oysterfestchicago.com.

Oysters can be prepared myriad ways. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

— It wouldn’t be oyster season without a visit to GT Fish & Oyster. Now, in addition to their usual menu of delicious seafood, they’ve got two new cooked oyster dishes. For all you raw bar patrons: raw oysters are great, but you have to try them grilled, roasted and fried to be a true oyster connoisseur.

— If you’re a fan of the grill, try the “Oyster and Pearl,” grilled oysters served with corn mousse and bacon pearls, a sort of seafood chowder bite that comes in a shell. If you’re more into roasting, grab an order of roasted oysters with horseradish butter and Parmesan.

— If you’re paying full price for oysters every time you go out, you’re doing it wrong. Oyster happy hours are everywhere, and while I wouldn’t recommend dining on discount bivalves just anywhere (you want to make sure the restaurant knows how to handle them) here are a few deals that you can trust. As always, check before you go to make sure they’re running the deal and well stocked.

From 4-6 p.m. every day, Shaw’s offers one variety of East and one variety of West coast oysters at half price (usually around $15 a dozen).

On Monday evenings, at Vera, a half dozen oysters is only $6.

From 5-7 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at >Bow and Stern, they run a $1 oyster happy hour. That’s $12 a dozen – a great deal.

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