I always feel for restaurants with no patrons. I think of the ingredients for their daily special rotting in the back, bored kitchen staff standing around smoking their fifteenth cigarette of the hour and the owner counting liquor bottles, liquefying heads of lettuce and adding up his rent while looking at empty seats and wondering how many more months he can stick it out. Shaffer was one such place. As I rolled in, the lone patron at the small bar and eventually one of four diners the entire evening, oysters sat in melting ice, beer taps went untapped and I’m sure somewhere in the back the dishwasher smiled under his hairnet that he’d be having yet another easy night. My only assumption here is that, given the restaurant’s somewhat oddball location and general lack of human beings (and the fact they were still open for business) that they must get a decent lunch crowd. Granted, the lack of patronage afforded us a personal visit from Mr. Shaffer himself, who, in his interminable dry and sarcastic way, described in painstaking detail exactly how they harvest and groom each different kind of oyster my dinner mates were about to down. It was certainly an interesting education, but you still can’t get me to eat those damn things. Choking down a chunk of salty snot isn’t my idea of a good time. I did, however, have a nice shrimp bisque, which was both cooked and didn’t taste like the bottom of the ocean. I chose a fish from their somewhat undersized menu (I think it was one of two), which was both well cooked and relatively tasty. Desert was what you could call a homemade Chipwich–and how the hell could that be bad? The entire meal wasn’t very memorable in terms of the food, but I do take away from the experience Jay Shaffer’s lesson about how oysters are cultivated, which I would have had to pay like $149 at the Learning Annex for otherwise. Granted, I still think they taste like snot. [MF]

5 W 21st St.