#18 Of 33 Best Unusual Seafood Dishes.

#18: Seafood Caprese Salad @ Cafe Giovanni A standard Caprese salad is layered with fresh mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, with olive oil and basil. Chef Duke’s enhancement adds shrimp and crabmeat, plus a sauce that’s similar to a white remoulade. It’s an irresistible appetizer, and the only thing wrong with it is that it’s too big to finish while saving appetite for an entree. So, split it two ways. It’s a great item to include if you’re having Chef Duke feed you. Cafe Giovanni. French Quarter: 117 Decatur. 504-529-2154. This…

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GW Fins. French Quarter: 808 Bienville. 504-581-3467.

#1 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

It’s not well appreciated by restaurant patrons how difficult it is for a restaurant to serve consistently top-class seafood. Even here in New Orleans, it’s a challenge for a restaurant to track down the good stuff. Part of this is because the resource is waning, but even more vexing is the inconsistency of availability. So the two owners of GW Fins–both of whom came into the business with full knowledge of the situation–must at times have wondered whether they were out of their minds to attempt a fish-specialized menu with a dozen species on the menu on a bad day. It is a testimonial to their skill that they have pulled it off. Thereby, they have created the best seafood restaurant in New Orleans. More to come. . .[divider type=""]

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Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021

#2 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

The first generations of the Galatoire family had the knowledge and taste to set a standard that lives on today. The food and service are simple, relying on local ingredients of excellent quality (especially seafood) and recipes refined through decades of natural selection. Meanwhile, the waiters perform organically with the kitchen and the customers to deliver the best to those who know how to enjoy it. Truth be told, the food here is brilliant in only a small percentage of its long menu catalog. That doesn’t matter, because if you understand Galatoire’s–something not possible on a first visit–you also know what and how to order. More to come. . .

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Drago’s. CBD: 2 Poydras. 504-584-3911.

#3 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Drago’s permanent place in the annals of New Orleans cuisine is assured. Its char-broiled oysters are so exciting that the idea has been imitated in dozens of other restaurants. That achievement is already in a league with Manale’s barbecue shrimp, K-Paul’s blackened fish, and Antoine’s oysters Rockefeller. Beyond its oyster grill, Drago’s is a classic New Orleans seafood restaurant, nudge upscale just a touch. Beyond fried seafood platters and gumbo, it’s the city’s leading lobster restaurant. New dishes enter the menu regularly, and both locations remain very busy. More to come. . .

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Drago’s. Metairie: 3232 N Arnoult Rd. 504-888-9254.

#3 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Drago’s permanent place in the annals of New Orleans cuisine is assured. Its char-broiled oysters are so exciting that the idea has been imitated in dozens of other restaurants. That achievement is already in a league with Manale’s barbecue shrimp, K-Paul’s blackened fish, and Antoine’s oysters Rockefeller. Beyond its oyster grill, Drago’s is a classic New Orleans seafood restaurant, nudge upscale just a touch. Beyond fried seafood platters and gumbo, it’s the city’s leading lobster restaurant. New dishes enter the menu regularly, and both locations remain very busy. More to come. . .

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Borgne. CBD: 601 Loyola Ave. 504-613-3860.

#4 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Of all the notions from the fecund mind of Chef John Besh, Borgne may be the best of them. In a casual restaurant whose decor makes a clear statement on behalf of seafood, he and his chef-business partner Brian Landry blend the flavors of New Orleans with those of the long-running Isleños community just downstream. That alone is a brilliant idea, never before explored. What comes out of the effort is a menu that seems familiar, but brings a collection of unusual flavors and food marriages that are unique in the eating. The location near the Superdome and the rapidly-developing Poydras @ Loyola area adds to its utility. More to come. . .

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Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078.

#5 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

In 1979, the Brennans revolutionized the the New Orleans dining scene around by opening Mr. B’sthis, the archetype of the casual, contemporary Creole bistro. Now restaurants like Mr. B’s dominate the scene. Its kitchen creates innovative and excellent Creole dishes from top-rung fresh ingredients, but serves them in an easy, informal way. Hickory-grilled fish, now common, was pioneered here; so was pasta as a non-Italian main course. Although a scan of the menu suggests that red meats are the main specialty, the seafood dishes are almost without exception the best versions anywhere of numerous contemporary Creole classic dishes. More to come. . .

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Pêche. Warehouse District: 800 Magazine St. 504-522-1744.

#6 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

New Orleans has always been one of the great cities in America for the eating of seafood. But it must be admitted that for a few decades we were in a bit of a rut, with seafood menus that were interchangeable both among the casual places and the gourmet restaurants. ¶ By going down to the basics of fishing and cookery, Pêche–along with a half-dozen or so other places with the same goals–have redrawn the field. It would be a wonderful thing if these new rules went into force in many more restaurants. ¶ Except for a a bit of beef for those who can’t or won’t eat seafood, Pêche is a where you go strictly to satisfy an appetite for fish. The provenance of the seafood is made clear by the number of items that vary day to day. ¶ The outstanding dish is the whole fish of the day. It’s almost always a local species, and is likely to proceed from the large hearth right behind the much larger oyster bar. The kitchen doesn’t limit itself to local or even American styles of cooking. Latin American and Spanish ideas are particularly in evidence. More to come. . .

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Impastato’s. Metairie: 3400 16th Street. 504-455-1545.

#7 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

One of the most important goals a restaurant must have is a good source of first-class raw materials. Even in the realm of seafood–which you’d think should be very abundant in our part of the world, but isn’t–the person who buys food for a restaurant kitchen must either 1) pay top dollar; b) know somebody well-connected to the commercial fishermen; or iii) spend a lot of time on the phone tracking the every-changing seafood markets. Joe Impastato and his brother Sal do all three of those things. At Impastato’s, for example, I often find soft-shell crabs when nobody else has them. Live soft-shells, at that. Can’t fake that. More to come. . .

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Sal and Judy’s. Lacombe: 27491 US 190 . 985-882-9443.

#8 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

It doesn’t matter much who you are. It’s going to be tough getting a table at Sal and Judy’s on moment’s notice. That’s even if you know Sal. ¶ Everybody knows Sal. Sal is one of the nicest guys in the restaurant business. He comes across as an Italian immigrant who hasn’t quite figured things out, letting his customers fill him in. In reality, Sal is one of the most savvy restaurateurs around. Nobody except Paul Prudhomme or Emeril can match his success in marketing his sauces, salad dressings, seasonings, and olive oil, which are everywhere in New Orleans supermarkets. (They’re successful largely because they really duplicate the flavors served in the restaurant.) ¶ Meanwhile, the food in house is worth a trip across the lake and the trouble of making a reservation well in advance. More to come. . .

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Katie’s. Mid-City: 3701 Iberville. 504-488-6582.

#9 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Some of the best restaurants took the longest to return after the hurricane, and their customers were among the happiest to finally see them return. That was a mixture of longing the the past followed by a well-planned bolt into the future. ¶ No restaurant proved that theory better than Katie’s. Scott Craig and his partners made the resurrected Katie’s into the best neighborhood restaurant ever, expanding its former specialties to embrace even more than its big old menu had. ¶ The seafood side of this energy is especially impressive. Here is the best fried seafood platter in town, and that’s only the beginning of it. More to come. . .

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Tommy’s Cuisine. Warehouse District: 746 Tchoupitoulas. 504-581-1103.

#10 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

New Orleans differs from most other great restaurant cities in that its menus are dominated by seafood. Even in grand old restaurants in which beef and lamb are prime, it’s the allure of the fish and shellfish that sets them apart. ¶ Part of this can be explained by the difficulty of buying good seafood. Although that’s easier here than in most places, it still requires spending lots of time on the phone tracking down the good stuff. ¶ With a long history of great food and service and a chef who came from Galatoire’s, Tommy’s seafood side is very strong. You could eat here ten times without ever leaving the fish, oysters, shrimp, crawfish, soft-shells, and especially the crabmeat. More to come. . .

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Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House. Metairie: 3117 21st Street. 504-833-6310.

#11 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

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. More to come. . .

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Red Fish Grill. French Quarter: 115 Bourbon. 504-598-1200.

#12 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

The first block of Bourbon Street off Canal Street was almost a no-man’s land after the major department stores closed. The first sign of life in lively scene there now was the opening of the Red Fish Grill, whose colorful digs and impressive casual cooking set off a trend. As if it had something further to prove, it was the first major restaurant in the French Quarter to reopen after Katrina, even though they had to use paper and plastic serviceware and bottled water even for dishwashing. It all made the statement that this somewhat wacky-looking restaurant was in earnest about its food. And it still is. More to come. . .

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Muriel’s. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885.

#13 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Muriel’s location is almost too good. It’s on Jackson Square, the center of New Orleans since its earliest days, a few feet from St. Louis Cathedral. With second-flood balconies overlooking the park and the river, there is no better place for an immersion in the New Orleans spirit. Indeed, at least one spirit haunts the hallways and staircases of Muriel’s antique building. A little voodoo here, a little bawdiness there, and distinctive Creole and Cajun cooking filling the atmosphere with its flavors and aromas. The place almost seems touristy, but it has a large local following that keeps the flavors right and the prices attractive. The emphasis is on seafood, prepared with virtually zero use of the deep-fryer. More to come. . .

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Andrea’s. Metairie: 3100 19th St. 504-834-8583.

#14 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

The restaurant identifies itself as Italian, and most of its customers think of it that way. But since its earliest days the most distinctive part of the kitchen’s work involves seafood. Chef-Owner Andrea Apuzzo makes much of the fact that, with few exceptions, all the fish he serves are bought fresh, whole and filleted in house. It is not uncommon for there to be six or more species of finfish on hand, with pompano, red snapper, trout, redfish, puppy drum, salmon, Dover sole, amberjack and flounder usually available. ¶ The shellfish offering is no less comprehensive, with crabmeat, shrimp, oysters (shucked to order), mussels, clams, lobster and scallops almost always to be had. The range of preparation is equally strong, to the point where it’s possible to say that the chef will cook his seafood in almost any imaginable way. It all adds up to a big enough seafood menu to stand alone. It’s better than any other part of the menu. More to come. . .

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Basin Seafood. Uptown: 3222 Magazine St. 504-302-7391.

#15 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Basin Seafood is your basic utilitarian seafood house in every regard except one. Although it plies the flow of Louisiana fish and shellfish to build its menu, this is not the place if you’re hungry for a fried seafood platter. The techniques of cooking and the flavors that result from them are from a different cookbook, although not one that is likely to puzzle any eater for long. Sauces, even the ones that sound as if they make a strong statement, step aside to let the fish take over. More to come. . .

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Pascal’s Manale. Uptown: 1838 Napoleon Ave. 504-895-4877.

#16 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Having entered its second century, Pascal’s Manale is more than old enough for its Italian roots to be thoroughly hybridized with Creole cooking. That happy blend gave rise to one of the city’s most distinctive and best dishes: barbecue shrimp, now served by just about every restaurant that serves shrimp. With such a venerable past, it really is more like a neighborhood hangout than the major culinary landmark that it is. Families of customers have dined here for generations, table-hopping to talk with friends who may well have been dining here last time. Although it attracts many tourists, it still feels intensely local. More to come. . .

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Café B. Old Metairie: 2700 Metairie Road. 504-934-4700.

#17 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Old Metairie is old, affluent, and unique. Restaurants there operate under different rules. They find a healthy lunch crowd, a preference for earlier dining than elsewhere, and a desire for retro food and service. One more oddity: people from other parts of town are reluctant to go to Old Metairie to dine, fearing that they’ll get caught at the railroad crossing for a long time–even if their destination doesn’t require crossing the tracks. Ralph Brennan–the most business-savvy member of his famous restaurant family–saw an opportunity in Old Metairie. Even in a restaurant space where four previous eateries had failed. As usual, his hunch–and his keen ability to match a restaurant with a clientele–was on target.

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Galley Seafood. Old Metairie: 2535 Metairie Rd. 504-832-0955.

#18 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

The two bedrock truths of the Galley are 1) you will have to plan, time, and maneuver in order to get a table without having to wait a long time and b) yes, the fried and boiled seafood really are that good. One item explains the other. More to come. . .

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Bourbon House. French Quarter: 144 Bourbon. 504-522-0111.

#19 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

The corner of Iberville and Bourbon Streets may be the best restaurant location in New Orleans, with a surfeit of classic local eateries right there or mighty nearby. The Brennan family alone has four major restaurants within the block, creating a little tension when Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House encroached upon Ralph Brennan’s Red Fish Grill’s seafood-restaurant turf. As it turned out, both places thrived because of the propinquity, not despite it. The Bourbon House also offset one of Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse place at the other end of the block. All is harmony now. More to come. . .

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Blue Crab. West End: 7900 Lakeshore Dr. 504-284-2898.

#20 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

New Orleans aches for restaurants with views of Lake Pontchartrain. All we had for years after the storm was the chain Landry’s, with a fine lake vista but unconvincing food. The Blue Crab is more like we remember from Bruning’s, Fitzgerald’s, Swanson’s and all the other great West End seafood houses. Both in its food and its environment, everything about the place shouts localism. Noisy dining rooms, open decks, a great look at the sunset, and big piles of. . . keep on reading. . . .

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Middendorf’s. Exit 15 off I-55, Manchac. 985-386-6666.

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#21 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Appropriate to its history in colonial times, Middendorf’s marks the farthest outpost of NOMenu’s restaurant-rating purview. But through its entire long history, New Orleanians have always considered it to be as essential part of the dining scene, and worth the forty-mile trip to dine there. The long drive is an unacceptable complication for a fair number of enthusiasm-challenged people, who will tell you that it’s overrated. Ignore such reports and, on the way out, have the essential debate as to which is the best way to eat Middendorf’s famous fried catfish: thin-cut, thick-cut (that gets my vote) or whole fish. Then work on your appetite with images of the great raw and broiled oysters, the stuffed crabs, and the soft-shell crabs in their season (warm months). More to come. . .

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Harbor Seafood. Kenner: 3203 Williams Blvd. 504-443-6454.

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#22 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

It stands to reason that a seafood restaurant allied with a retail fish and shellfish market will likely serve fresher, better seafood than a restaurant without such a connection. It also works for the retail side: fish that hasn’t sold in a day or two is still fresh enough to be cooked and served without any significant problems. It’s only been in recent years that this symbiosis has become common, But the Harbor has been at it for quite some time, accumulating enough plaudits for it to be the best place the eat seafood in Kenner.

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Mandina’s. Mid-City: 3800 Canal. 504-482-9179.

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#23 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

For at least two generations of New Orleanians, the joys of restaurant dining were introduced in restaurants a lot like Mandina’s. Or at Mandina’s itself. Until the gourmet bistro era began in the 1980s, restaurants like this were in every New Orleans neighborhood. By then Mandina’s had become not only a rarity but seemed to be every Orleanian’s idea of what a neighborhood restaurant should be. Then Katrina came though and reminded us how important restaurants like this are to our cherished dining practices. More to come. . .

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Ignatius Eatery. Uptown: 3121 Magazine. 504-896-2225.

#24 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Whoever designed this restaurant has a great sense of the New Orleans restaurant past. Throughout Ignatius’s dining room are are references to eateries from the dim past. None in particular, but a fanciful hybrid of many of them. That’s charming, but for the kitchen to accomplish the same feat is remarkable. You find dishes whose origins range from a century ago to about 1979. That’s further enhanced by the most important and difficult accomplishment: everything comes out delicious. What with the neighborhood prices, it becomes one of the most likeable restaurants on Magazine Street. Which is saying something. keep reading. . . .

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New Orleans Food & Spirits. Bucktown: 210 Hammond Hwy. 504-828-2220.

#25 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

The generic, forgettable name and the corny menu language (“gumbeaux”) disguise some very good neighborhood seafood restaurant. Overloaded platters of fried oysters, shrimp, catfish, and soft-shell crabs are all prepared to order, crisp and hot. And they grill as well as they fry. The three locations have aspects of a neighborhood cafe, with poor boys, beans, gumbo, and specials. More to come. . .

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Fury’s. Metairie: 724 Martin Behrman Ave. 504-834-5646.

#26 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Some restaurants are time machines. They show us what it was like to eat dine out in the days before everything was artisan this or that. When if you didn’t live in the neighborhood, you wouldn’t even know about the existence of that restaurant’s neighborhood cafe, and they wouldn’t know you. Where nearly all the customers are regulars. And–best of all–how the kitchen cooks the way it did before restaurants could buy everything pre-cut, pre-seasoned, and maybe even pre-cooked. Not to mention probably frozen. Fury’s is a restaurant like that. Its customers remember all those time-machine qualities, because they themselves were around back in those days. More to come. . .

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Grand Isle. Warehouse District: 575 Convention Center Blvd. 504-520-8530.

#27 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

The original idea here was to offer the feeling of being in the Louisiana wetlands, and to cook what one might catch there. Specifically, you are reminded of the fishing camp in the real town of Grand Isle–one of the several ends of the earth on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. That have evolved over the years into a menu much like you’d find in a good, funky New Orleans neighborhood place, but served in a squeaky-clean, hotel-restaurant kind of way. More to come. . .

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Seither’s. Harahan: 279 Hickory. 504-738-1116.

#28 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

The fact that the parking lot is surfaced with oyster shells should tell you something. It’s the first of many impressions that this is an old-style, close-to-the-water combination seafood market and cafe. It’s like the joints and the people you see after driving a hundred miles into the Louisiana wetlands, except that it’s in Harahan, which is only slightly remote from the city. All the freshness and sense of place that this implies are indeed borne out in the cooking. More to come. . .

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Joey K’s. Uptown: 3001 Magazine. 504-891-0997.

#29 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

It’s a classic New Orleans casual menu that stops short of being a cliche. They take all of the cooking seriously, something best seen in the daily specials. Many customers know exactly which day to be there for what. Portions are almost grossly oversize, and if that’s not enough, they have an all-you-can-eat catfish deal that runs every day. Despite that, seafood in general is a strong suit here. More to come. . .

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Brisbi’s. West End: 7400 Lakeshore Dr. 504-304-4125.

#30 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

The classic West End restaurant is a big, casual place with big windows giving a view of the lake, serving modestly-priced local seafood dishes of large size. The food begins with raw oysters, boiled lake crustaceans, and fried everything. What sets Brisbi’s apart is that its menu extends well beyond the basics, with hollandaise sauce and fish tacos and other departures from the deep-fryer. More to come. . .

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Restaurant des Familles. Lafitte: 7163 Barataria Blvd. 504-689-7834.

#31 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

New Orleans is in close proximity to many Ends Of The World. Restaurant des Familles is not quite that remote, but well down the road to a place that is: Barataria, the hangout of Jean Lafitte and his pirates. The surroundings of the restaurant are primordial enough that there are swamp tours nearby. Yet it’s close enough to town that if you have a visiting client or friend who wants to eyeball the unique Louisiana environment, it’s not too long a trip to come here. And eat some gumbo, oysters, crabmeat, and all the other comestibles for which our town is celebrated. More to come. . .

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Felix’s. French Quarter: 739 Iberville. 504-522-4440.

#32 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

Among the memories carried around by lifetime Orleanians, the circumstances surrounding the eating of one’s first raw oyster loom vividly. For a long time, the population could be divided into those who had their first oyster at Felix’s, and those who did so across the street at the Acme. What with all the oysters bars in town now, this effect has transmogrified into a predictor of the oyster-eater’s age. If your first was from either Felix’s or the Acme, you are probably over fifty. More to come. . .

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Acme Oyster House. French Quarter: 724 Iberville. 504-522-5973.

#33 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries

The least pretentious of the seven century-old New Orleans restaurants, the Acme acts its age in its signature activity. Their oysters have always been among the city’s best, both in the raw bivalves and the grilled oysters–the latter a recent borrowing from Drago’s. Most of the rest of the menu is standard New Orleans neighborhood eats, but in much of that the kitchen comes across as the small chain restaurant that it is, with less range in its offering, particularly the finfish. More to come. . .

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