Marianos oyster bar lunch special (for two)
  • Mike Sula
  • Mariano’s oyster bar lunch special (for two)

I’m in danger of becoming a champion of mega grocery chain Mariano’s, if only for the quality of the prepared food stalls in the new Ravenswood store. I’ve already professed my strong like for the barbecue, a damn sight better than the majority of new independent restaurants purporting to smoke meat. I certainly didn’t expect to vouch for the raw bar, especially after an early unfortunate encounter with a single spermy bivalve. But I gave it another shot when I noticed the lunch special available daily until 3 PM, which includes a cup of soup, three fat jumbo shrimp, two crab claws, and three oysters, all for the low, low price of $10.

It’s all pretty good: the chowder is swimming with fat chunks of clam meat, the shrimp are fresh and sweet, but the oysters are surprisingly well tended, an ever-changing selection of a half dozen east- and west-coast bivalves shipped, I was told, in small batches to ensure high turnover. Best of all was the skill and knowledge of the shucker I sat before, who grew up on the beaches of Acapulco popping oysters with his dad, and who barely chipped a shell or spilt a drop of precious liquor. I promise, you’ll sit at the bar, put bread in his jar and say, “Man what are you doing here?”

Mariano’s, 1800 W. Lawrence, 773-334-3549,