Dozen And A Half Best Places
The Great Raw Oysters
Oyster bars are easy to size up. The standards are clear: you want oysters that are big, cold, scrupulously fresh, taken from the best sources, and shucked so that a minimum of dirt and shell fragments get onto the oyster. There is no style aspect to raw oysters. Which is, of course, what’s great about them. No food so delectable is closer to nature.
Despite the BP oil spill and the indirect damage it did to the Louisiana oyster beds, more restaurants serve raw oysters of excellent quality than we’ve enjoyed in decades. Or perhaps ever. More restaurants are installing oyster bars, even with all the mess, problems, and personnel needs they entail. There isn’t one on the following list that I wouldn’t eat oysters from with enthusiasm. The divide between the top and the bottom is not enormous–a good sign.
The oyster season has persisted longer than usual, thanks tot he cold weather. They have ben enormous and meaty. But even in mid-summer, whatever they may lack, they make up for with cold contrast with the hot weather. What could be more satisfying that two dozen icy raw oysters if the temperature is in the mid-nineties? Or higher?
1. Drago’s. Metairie: 3232 N Arnoult Rd. 504-888-9254. CBD: 2 Poydras. 504-584-3911. The oyster king of New Orleans, Drago Cvitanovich long ago established connections that bring the best Louisiana oysters to bear not only on its raw operation, but its original char-broiled jobs.
2. Pascal’s Manale. Uptown: 1838 Napoleon Ave. 504-895-4877. Not just a way to kill time while waiting for a table, Manale’s oyster bar has a long record of great shucking.
3. Bozo’s. Metairie: 3117 21st Street. 504-831-8666. A long tradition of great oysters at the bar, and the best fried in town.
4. Casamento’s. Uptown: 4330 Magazine. 504-895-9761. Figuring out when they’re open is the main challenge. The goodness of oysters are beyond question. Coming up on 100 years.
5. Felix’s. French Quarter: 739 Iberville. 504-522-4440. The Acme’s long-time rival, across Iberville Street on Oyster Row. The most-photographed neon sign in town: “Oysters R In Season.”
6. Acme Oyster House. French Quarter: 724 Iberville. 504-522-5973. Metairie: 3000 Veterans Blvd. 504-309-4056. Covington: 1202 US 190 (Causeway Blvd). 985-246-6155. The city’s oldest oyster bar, 100 years old last year. Oysters come from all over (Texas, sometimes), but consistently good.
7. Bourbon House. French Quarter: 144 Bourbon. 504-522-0111. The biggest, most comfortable oyster bar on Oyster Row.
8. Lüke. CBD: 333 St Charles Ave. 504-378-2840. Not just oysters, but lots of other chilled seafood on trays of ice.
9. Red Fish Grill. French Quarter: 115 Bourbon. 504-598-1200. Consistently fine oysters in a bar you won’t see immediately.
10. Grand Isle. Warehouse District: 575 Convention Center Blvd. 504-520-8530. The best part of this restaurant is what they do with oysters. Good raw bar, and it goes from there.
11. Red Maple. Gretna: 1036 Lafayette. 504-367-0935. The West Bank’s best place to eat raw oysters looks too fancy for that, but it isn’t. Wednesdays they sell them at a ridiculously low price.
12. Harbor Seafood. Kenner: 3203 Williams Blvd. 504-443-6454. A small operation that shucks an unbelievable number of good oysters.
13. La Cote Brasserie. Warehouse District: 700 Tchoupitoulas. 504-613-2350. Not just local oysters here, but some exotic species. (They were doing that long before the oil spill.)
14. Grillot’s. Mandeville: 2100 Florida. 985-624-8849 . Roy Grillot was in the kitchen at Drago’s when the char-broiled oyster was born, and he duplicates them here.
15. K Gee’s Oyster Bar. Mandeville: 2534 Florida. 985-626-0530. A spinoff of one of the great names in oysters, but they make it on their own merits.
16. Remoulade. French Quarter: 309 Bourbon. 504-523-0377. The casual arm of Arnaud’s, with a nice tiled oyster bar.
17. Morton’s Seafood. Madisonville: 702 Water. 504-845-4970. Right on the Tchefuncte River, with a busy and well-chilled oyster bar.
18. Vera’s. Slidell: 2020 Gause Blvd W. 985-690-9814 . A great old seafood restaurant relocated by Katrina, with