Cupid's bow is strung, the candy hearts are out, and there's no shortage of $75-a-plate ways to dine with your sweetie this Valentine's Day. But do the two of you really want to spend next Saturday plodding through four or five overwrought, overgarnished courses, just one more pair of credit-card-toting giraffes shuffling in for feeding time at the Ark?
Especially when you could take that same chunk of change and spend it on a week or more of the best aphrodisiac Nature can provide. I'm talking, of course, of oysters, and better yet, of the $1 (or even free) oysters on the half-shell available all around town. Besides the pure taste appeal of their sea-kissed succulence, oysters are rich in minerals (especially iron, calcium and zinc) and B vitamins, and high in protein. Plus, raw oysters seem to go hand-in-hand (or hand-to-mouth) with a certain kind of adventurous sensuality. I wouldn't turn down a date with an oyster-hater, but I'd certainly put on my fancy panties for a second date with an oyster lover.
So, where to find them on the cheap? The key is getting there early; most restaurants and bars offer their oyster deals as part of happy hour, hoping to pique your appetite just enough so you'll pony up for some real grub, or at least run up a decent bar tab. Others use the deal to pull in customers on otherwise slow nights. Here, a few to jot down in your little black book:
Luka's Taproom, in uptown Oakland, offers good-quality oysters at $1 a pop every Monday night. Monday's also $1 oyster night in the Castro at the Woodhouse Fish Company. At Hog Island Oyster Company in San Francisco's Ferry Building, there's a very popular happy hour on Mondays and Thursdays from 5-7pm, with $1 oysters and $3.50 pints. The Asian-infused Eos in Cole Valley features $1 oysters (served by the half or full dozen) on the happy-hour menu from 5:30-7pm, Sunday through Thursday. In the northeast Mission, Circolo does $1 oysters from 5-7pm, Tuesday through Friday, in the bar and lounge.
And if you really don't want to split your cash between beer and food, head over to the Mission's El Rio for free oysters every Friday, from 5:30pm til the oysters run out. Grab a beer and a plate of oysters, and head out to the backyard to sip and slurp under the lemon tree. Now that's real San Francisco romance.