Best Dozen Fried Seafood Platters
Let’s start this survey of one of the most popular seafood dishes served in New Orleans by noting that a seafood platter is not all that great an idea.
Seafood platters have a built-in problem. Different seafoods cook at different rates. So a cook can’t fry everything together–or even in separate pots, at the same time (as I wish they all would). The oysters will be way overcooked before the soft-shell is done.
The typical restaurant workaround is frying everything in large batches, and assemble the platters from pans of seafood under heat lamps. This results in cool, uncrisp parts of the platter, unless the kitchen is barely behind the demand.
Despite these issues, it’s hard to resist the appeal of a golden-brown, crisp seafood platter. Also at work on your mind is the almighty appeal of large quantities. Klara Cvitanovich (Drago’s wife, and the queen of Drago’s, no matter what anybody tells you) once asked on this point, “Really, who should eat a seafood platter?”
Yes, there’s only so much fried seafood you can eat before you’re just jamming it down. After admitting that appetites vary, I offer you this as the perfect contents of a fried seafood platter.
Six medium oysters or four big ones.
Six medium shrimp or six dozen teeny-tiny ones.
Three small catfish fillets, or one big trout fillet. No big catfish fillets. You don’t want big catfish.
One stuffed crab or crab ball. You just eat that because it’s there. There has never been, to my knowledge, a good stuffed crab on a seafood platter.
One medium soft-shell crab. The size and quality of the soft-shell crab on a seafood platter is the most telling determinant of the goodness of the restaurant. This is by far the most expensive single item on there, and the lesser establishments get ticked off at you for demanding such a high-cost thing.
A pile of fries. These will be mediocre, even in the better places. You’ll eat them anyway.
Three hush puppies. A relatively recent addition to the seafood platter, it’s usually not much more than cornmeal-coated cornmeal.
A quarter-cup of tartar sauce. That’s about four of those little plastic cranberry cups’ worth. No known restaurant ever gives you enough tartar sauce without your having to ask for it.
About a dozen pickle slices. (See note on tartar sauce.)
Two good-sized slices of lemon.
Two slices of buttered toast. That is butter, isn’t it? Not oil from the seafood?
With this knowledge powering us, I offer my top-dozen list of fried seafood platters. Split one of these with a friend.
1. Katie’s. Mid-City: 3701 Iberville. 504-488-6582. A spectacular platter, and that’s the small one. You need two to tangle with the big ones.
2. Vera’s. Slidell: 2020 Gause Blvd W. 985-690-9814 . The only fried shrimp I can get excited about.
3. Fury’s. Metairie: 724 Martin Behrman Ave. 504-834-5646. Light coating, everything fresh, all fried to order.
4. Bourbon House. French Quarter: 144 Bourbon. 504-522-0111. All the pieces are here, hot and crisp, beautiful specimens.
5. Bozo’s. Metairie: 3117 21st Street. 504-831-8666. A more limited platter than in other places, with the oysters and catfish as the highlights. Nobody fries those two things better.
6. Harbor Seafood. Kenner: 3203 Williams Blvd. 504-443-6454. A bustling place with better grilled than fried seafood–but the fried is first-class.
7. Charlie’s Seafood. Harahan: 8311 Jefferson Hwy. 504-737-3700. A fine fried platter, and an unusual un-fried platter.
8. Cafe 615 (Da Wabbit). Gretna: 615 Kepler. 504-365-1225. They’re very adept at frying here, but the crust might be too spicy for some (not me).
9. Drago’s. Metairie: 3232 N Arnoult Rd. 504-888-9254. CBD: 2 Poydras. 504-584-3911. Fried seafood here takes a back seat to Drago’s many more ambitious specialties, but still worth getting if you insist.
10. Mr. Ed’s. Metairie: 1001 Live Oak. 504-838-0022. Overly generous and consistently hot and crisp. That’s a rare combination.
11. New Orleans Food & Spirits. Harvey: 2330 Lapalco Blvd. 504-362-0800. Bucktown: 210 Hammond Hwy. 504-828-2220. Covington: 208 Lee Lane. 985-875-0432. Fresh, hot, crisp–but there’s a sameness to the coating that they ought to take a look at.
12. Joey K’s. Uptown: 3001 Magazine. 504-891-0997. Exceptionally good catfish. Another restaurant with a good seafood platter, but too many other good things for it to be at the top of the menu.