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Jun 19, 2013 09:48 PM

Oyster Prices

Why are oysters so expensive in northeast restaurants? Go down south and $12 for 12 is pretty common, even cheaper. $2.50 - 3 each seems to be the norm up here! What gives?

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  1. Overhead costs. What's the rent for the spaces where those inexpensive oysters are sold down south? What do they have to pay a general manager or accountant?

    Boston is an expensive city, but you can track down oyster specials used as loss leaders by some places.
    That is one fairly recent conversation on the topic.


    1. Jetpen2, I had the same experience. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, developed a taste for raw oysters after a trip to New Orleans, and then found them too expensive to order in Chicago ($ 2-3 per oyster), except on rare occasions.

      Fifteen years later, I moved to Florida and discovered that most medium level restaurants here charge a dollar an oyster. It's now twenty-three years since I moved to Florida and the going rate is still a dollar an oyster! Hallelujah!

      Florida oysters are not quite as flavorful as northern oysters, being a little less briney, but they make up for that, partially, by being much bigger and providing a more substantial and pleasant texture, which I enjoy.

      I attributed the increased cost in Chicago to the cost of importing oysters from one of the coasts, but that does not really seem to be the reason for the cost discrepancy because, as you pointed out, even along the coast of the northeast United States, unless there is a special sale going on, oysters are much more expensive than in Florida.

      2 Replies
      1. re: gfr1111

        The traditional source of Florida oysters is Apalachicola, but the oyster beds there are frightfully dwindling. Most are now from Louisiana. I recently had 4 dozen from area #28 in LA, wild caught, $6/ dozen.

        1. re: Veggo

          Veggo, having just finished a two and a half year sojourn in Tallahassee (back in Tampa now--yea!), I heard on the television many reports of the Apalachicola oyster problem. Scientists say that their studies indicate that the decline in the oyster population had nothing to do with the BP oil spill and seems to be a combination of other problems. The problems preexisted the BP disaster. They're studying the causes but it is a race against time before the entire oyster population disappears.

      2. Because our oysters are so superior to those from warm southern waters. That's why!

        In all seriousness, although I do think ours far superior, it's not difficult to find $1 oysters in the northeast. Fine dining establishments often charge more. I was recently in a nice resort in Southern California, who had an app of 3 oysters for $15, a new high for me. I passed. One of the reasons might be that the kitchen help who shuck make much more here than in the south. Perhaps the fishing method is more laborious here as well. And as Penny states, overhead is significantly higher the cities like Boston, NYC and Chicago. Hard to say definitively.

        1 Reply
        1. re: CapeCodGuy

          those gulf oysters are so flaccid and the flavor pales n comparison to our cold-water gems.

          that being said, plenty of $1 oyster specials can be found.

        2. betcha canadian or NE oysters are pretty expensive in Florida.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cambridgedoctpr

            Not many malpeques or Wellfleets make the journey to Florida, at any price. Some New Bedford scallops and Ipswich clams do.

            1. re: cambridgedoctpr


              Canadian or NE oysters are pretty expensive here. In Tampa, we have a northern chain restaurant called Mitchell's. They serve almost exclusively New England, Canadian, and Washington oysters. They are small, delicious and expensive.

            2. Also, I believe most of the oysters that you find in the south are wild oysters and not farmed. Aquaculture is expensive--between equipment, seed stock and labor; its a lot cheaper harvesting wild, rather than growing your own, but then you aren't guaranteed a consistent product.

              Island Creek charges $1.50/piece in their retail store, so their wholesale to restaurants is probably somewhere close to $1. Anyone serving $1 ICOs in not making any money on the deal, they're just using it to get folks in the door.