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Jan 13, 2003 02:45 PM

Shaffer City Oyster Bar review

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Friday night we had dinner at Shaffer City. Folks have been posting about it a lot lately and my wife and I were pretty excited. We're going through some sort of oyster phase and have been blowing lots of money (credit) lately on high-end oyster places.

A few thoughts for anyone as oyster-obsessed as we are:

Prepared food: We were focussing on oysters, so we tried only a special salad (frisee, oranges, beets, stilton - quite good, a little heavy on the cheese) and the fried oysters (served in the shell with creamed spinach and drizzled with a tangy/creamy sauce. It seems like all the fancy fish places serve fried oysters this way. Anyone know if this is a classic recipe or just a local trend?) - also very good.

Service: Very nice. Our waiter was patient and helpful. Mr. Shaffer was all over the dining room offering friendly advice and commentary. He inspected and approved of our oyster choices, told a few brief stories and gave us encouraging nods and pats.

Oyster selection: terrific - comparable to Grand Central Oyster Bar and bigger than at Aquagrill, which has a widely varied raw menu.

Quality: Again, very high: We tried about 15 varieties of both Atlantic and Pacific oysters. All were very fresh and we felt confident we were tasting top-quality of exemplars of each variety. Some we liked better than others, but that, obviously, is a matter of taste.

Presentation: This was the only really disappointing thing, but it mattered to us. Both Blue Ribbon (which on any given night only serves a couple of types of oyster, though they are always very good) and Aquagrill make a perfect mignonette. This is my favorite condiment for oysters as the light sweet-tartness really complements the shellfish without overpowering it.

Shaffer City's mignonette is crammed with cracked black peppercorns. I don't know if this is a traditional form of the sauce, or if Shaffer City is attempting to create some sort of signature version, but in either case it is a mistake. The sweetness of the vinegar and savory taste of the shallots are completely overwhelmed by the flavor of black pepper. Further, eating your oyster involves the unwelcome crunch of two or three hard peppercorns.
Though I realize I am indulging in ridiculously effete nitpicking, this put something of a damper on the experience.

So for anyone who doesn't care too much about the mignonette, or prefers cocktail sauce or lemon juice or no sauce at all, I'd say Shaffer City will be a real pleasure. For myself, I think Aquagrill and Blue Ribbon will remain my preferred raw bar destinations, though I am always looking for new options.

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  1. Agree about the mignonette at Shaffer City; it actually kept me from returning. Blue Ribbon, in addition to great mignonette, has Alonso's salsa which works wonderfully with raw oysters. Other great oysters, but with limited daily selection, are Craft, Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe.

    BTW, Jewel Bako is planning to open an oyster bar across street from the restaurant. Cheers and happy slurping!

    1. Sauce is not an issue with me. I go for the oysters and the martinis.

      1. A mignonette sauce should have a healthy dose of pepper. I have had the sauce at Shaffer City and I don't recall it being out of sorts. However, I am a lemon juice and pepper only guy with my oysters.

        I still think Jay has the best selection on the city.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Hungrymike

          Don't get me wrong - I think it's a great place. I just wish they'd read my review and decide to retool their mignonette. If they did, I'd be a regular.

          1. re: New Havener
            Caitlin McGrath

            Instead of wishing they'd read your opinion of the mignonette here, why don't you send them a copy of your post?

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Good point. You can email Jay Shaffer at:

        2. Wow guys these reviews are way old. The place is not even close to what it was. It's a dive bar now. Serving comfort food. Fried Chicken, Ribs, Brisket and Fish and Chips.

          There are like 3 different kinds of mashed potatoes and cheese fries. That's it. Those days of it being a seafood restaurant are long gone. You want a raw bar? Check out John Dory around the corner. Best I have had in a long time. I also like Pearl.

          I heard the guys at Shaffer's opened a bar down the street but it closed. Unless you wanna hit Blt fish (expensive) you are pretty much out of luck around 6th ave.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Seafoodguy

            what's the story? do they not do oysters anymore?
            the point of schaffers is to eat an amazing selection of fresh oysters without any snobby pretense.
            the other food is kind of irrelevant.

          2. best oysters in manhattan.
            they make a fine vodka gimlet, too.

            7 Replies
            1. re: steve h.

              The best in Manhattan? Do you live in Manhattan? They are not even the best on the block.
              JOhn Dory----is the best in the hood--not even close get back to me when you visit there.
              Grand Central
              Blue water grill
              Aqua grill
              Fish---top notch-bad service though
              Blue Ribbon raw bar would destroy SHaffer's

              Could go on and on. Shaffer's at 3 bucks a pop is not good. And for those of you that like the M. Sauce they no longer put it on the plate. You have to ask for it. The service has really taken a turn for the worse.

              Shaffer's use to have that seafood platter (drool) but no more.

              1. re: Seafoodguy

                hey seafoodguy, sounds like you been around the shucking block; where's the most solid place to get a bad-ass raw platter for two? I'm thinking V-day (but casual), and looking at blue ribbon (no walk-ins tho), balthazar, aquagrill. but a lot of your suggs. above look good. any thoughts? where is jack's? the place on west spring street?

                1. re: bigjeff

                  also, avra in contention at all for their raw bar?

              2. re: steve h.

                Holy Carp! I totally forgot Lure--which is a great place to slurp them down.

                Also go to Ed's Lobster bar downtown, the place is so cozy.

                But I gave it some thought. And if there was one place in NYC I could sit down at a raw bar and chow on oysters.....

                Jack's Oyster Bar!

                1. re: Seafoodguy

                  grand central? mary's??
                  no. i think we have different tastes.
                  i'll take the pepsi challenge on shaffer.

                  1. re: steve h.


                    Like I said go to John Dory around corner from Shaffer's. Then when you feel like your ready for the big leagues hit Jacks.
                    btw Shaffers is an ungodly $3 an oyster.
                    Jacks is $2 but of course you have to suffer through far superior food and atmosphere. ;)

                    Shaffer's has a bunch of crap hanging on the wall, and broken bathrooms. So, they have that going for them. lol

                    1. re: Seafoodguy

                      bah. SHAFFER CITY is an over-priced version of FISH on bleecker street. the drinks are better, but that's about it.