WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Over the years, many great casual restaurants around New Orleans got their starts by selling sandwiches to construction workers. The widespread destruction in the eastern half of the city during Katrina brought a lot of crews to the area. Almost from the beginning, they lined up at the Castnet, one of the first restaurants to open in The East. The high ground along the lakefront was less badly battered, and owner Kent Bondi got right to work making poor boys. He’s still at at, along with his rebuilder clientele. But the food is good enough to attract a good many people who are just looking for a good meal.
The only daunting aspect of Castnet is the number of people who want to eat there at peak hours. But that’s the good part, too. They fry their seafood–the mainstay of the menu–in batches. But this turns over so rapidly that it may as well be cooked to order. Also here are all the other poor boy sandwiches you like, plus a few platters. Castnet also has a retail seafood market for buying fresh shrimp, crabs, crawfish and whatever else they can buy fresh.
Hayne Boulevard has been the address of many great seafood restaurants for nearly a century. Most of them were gone by 1988, when Kent Bondi bought an existing seafood retailer and began frying oysters, shrimp, and fish. He and his neighbor Walker’s BBQ were a magnet for eaters, and were doing pretty well when Katrina came. When it went, the place went ballistic.
A couple of years ago Walker’s and Castnet rebuilt their place, making it no fancier but nicer looking. The two restaurants share a dining room, which is entirely self-service.
»Gumbo (file or okra)
Boiled shrimp, crabs, and crawfish in season
Poor Boy Sandwiches
»Fried shrimp, oyster, catfish or stuffed crab
»Half-and-half fried seafood
»Fried soft shell crab
»Hot sausage (link or patties)
»Fried shrimp, oyster, catfish or stuffed crab platters
»Fried soft shell crab platter
»Fried trout platter
Fried or grilled chicken platter
Panneed veal and macaroni (TU special)
Meatballs and spaghetti (WE special)
Corn on the Cob
FOR BEST RESULTS
Avoid the period an hour before or after noon, when the crowds are heaviest.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
As time goes on, it’s not unimaginable that this place could grow into a bigger, more ambitious eatery. There are so few good restaurants (or bad ones) in The East that such a restaurant would draw a steady stream of customers.
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
- Consistency +2
- Value +3
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Dinner ends early (6 p.m.)
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations