#11 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish Grill
Metairie: 3117 21st Street. 504-833-6310. Map.
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Chris “Bozo” Vodonovich passed away in the cold winter of 2015, satisfied that the restaurant where he’d spent so many hours at the stove was in good hands. The new management accomplished a difficult trick: how to keep the old regular customers happy while at the same time create a buzz among potential new, younger customers. It worked so well that a smaller duplicate of the place has opened in the French Quarter.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
It took about a year, but Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish Grill has become one of the three or four best fried-seafood houses in the New Orleans area. By incorporating the essential dishes from the old Bozo’s with the well-practiced style of seafood cookery at his Bucktown and Kenner restaurants, this new place satisfies the demands both of the people who’ve come here for decades with a younger, more adventuresome crowd. The restaurant is sharply defined and consistent.
What made the old Bozo’s great was simple: the catfish, oysters and shrimp were fried to order–each in its separate vessel so it didn’t all taste the same. It came out so hot you can’t eat it right away. The quality of the raw materials was exceptional. The catfish is wild-caught, small Des Allemandes catfish. Mr. Ed’s new regime kept all of those good habits while expanding the menu to twice its former size. Of particular note are the many things done with oysters, making this a contender for best oyster house in town. The menu goes on with many new species of seafood prepared in more varied ways.
The most revered and meticulous cook in the annals of fried seafood in New Orleans was Bozo Vodonovich, one of many first-generation Croatian restaurateurs in New Orleans. Bozo opened his restaurant in Mid-City in 1928, then passed it along to his son Chris (“Chris” is the English nickname for “Bozo”). Chris stood in the kitchen for over sixty years, cooking the overwhelming majority of his customers’ platters personally. The restaurant moved to Metairie in 1975. In 2009, Chris retired, but the transition to a family friend went sour. He finally escaped in 2013, when Metairie restaurateur and longtime Bozo’s customer “Mr. Ed” McIntyre cut a deal with Chris. After a renovation, the place reopened as “Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish Grill,” with many dishes from the old Bozo’s cookbook. Mr. Ed opened a second location in the French Quarter in 2014.
The new Metairie restaurant is laid out like the old one, but it’s more colorful, brighter, and spacious. The rear dining room and the deck on the side–rarely used until Mr. Ed came along–are now busy and lively. The oyster bar is the focus of everything, and is the first thing you see when you walk in. The French Quarter Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar is a smallish restaurant in the middle of a somewhat dark block of Bienville Street, a stretch that seems to be headed towards becoming a new restaurant row.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Raw on the half shell
Char-broiled (garlic & parmesan)
Southwest (charbroiled with jalapeno)
Parmesan garlic bread
Fried calamari, marinara
Eggplant sticks, marinara, parmesan
Shrimp & crabmeat au gratin
Chris’s chicken-andouille gumbo
Seafood gumbo, shrimp & crab
Blackened chicken salad, Creole buttermilk dressing
Seafood avocado salad (shrimp, crab, remoulade)
Fried seafood platter
Fresh catch of the day
Grilled tuna, lemon butter
Chris’s hamburger steak, onions, gravy, mashed potatoes
Redfish Amanda (blackened, crawfish etouffée, rice)
Whole flounder, broiled, lemon butter
Cajun sampler (jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, red beans & rice, with smoked sausage)
Fried oysters, shrimp, or catfish poor boy
Barbecue shrimp poor boy
Stuffed crab poor boy
Chris’s homemade cheeseburger
New Orleans bread pudding
Ice cream crepe, strawberries
Mr Ed’s Mom’s homemade lemon ice box pie
FOR BEST RESULTS
Because all the cooking is done to order and with great care, it takes longer to get food than in most seafood places. This is also not the place for you if you measure the goodness of a fried platter by its enormity.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The traditional seafood coating is cornmeal, which not everybody likes. It might be time to shift to “cream meal,” a finer cornmeal blended with corn flour. I have never been a fan of the bread-crumb mixture that coats the shrimp.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color +2
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good for business meetings
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Oyster bar
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations