SAN DIEGO ( TheStreet) -- For years, a meal that included oysters was the very definition of luxury.
The provenance of the rich. A sign of living large.
But there are those in the culinary world who would argue that oysters no longer represent such luxury now that they're so widely available. Restaurants across the country offer them for purchase individually, reaching out to those who can't afford a whole dozen. They're being sold for a $1 each during happy hours from East to West Coast. And they are being fried and sold spilling out of cardboard containers like glorified french fries.
"They used to be about luxury years ago," says executive chef Michael DeGeorgio, of Vetro by Russo's on the Bay, in Howard Beach, N.Y. "Now a lot of places are selling them by the piece and people are able to get three or four pieces. When I started in the business, it was always said that rich people eat rack of lamb, oysters, crabmeat and filet mignon. But chefs have made smaller portions of oysters now and break up recipes so people are able to enjoy them even if they don't have a ton of money."All of which means restaurants wanting to retain the luxurious image of oysters have had to step up their game, developing more creative oysters dishes and more innovative oyster presentations. So here's a look at some of the places where oysters retain their dignity or have taken on a new life, being served in ever more creative ways, or at the very least are being served in the luxurious surroundings they so richly deserve.