Dozen Best Oyster Loaves
My consumption of oyster poor boys went way up this year. I like them as much as I ever have–which is to say quite a lot–but for some reason that particular appetite has been more demanding lately.
I must need the zinc.
Oyster poor boys and oyster loaves are pretty much the same thing. Which is toasted French bread, dressed in either the usual poor boy way (lettuce, tomatoes, mayo and pickles) or just with butter, pickles, and hot sauce. Some people like them with tartar sauce. I have lately come to like remoulade sauce on mine.
A long time ago restaurants made a different kind of oyster loaf called an oyster boat. Instead of French bread, an unsliced loaf of plain white bread is the base. It’s hollowed out, buttered and toasted before being filled with fried oysters. The extinct Lakeview Seafood in Little Woods was the inventor of the boat. It lives on at Chad’s Bistro in Metairie and Morton’s Seafood in Madisonville, but that’s about it.
The quality criterion for oyster loaves differs from that of other kinds of poor boys. The main issue is not how well can the place cook, but how good is its source of raw oysters. A place with a great oyster loaf will not usually have a great roast beef poor boy too. Frying is an exacting art, as we have seen in the year’s since Chris Vodanovich retired from Bozo’s. That place–long the perennial top of this list–has slipped since the master moved on.
The most famous oyster loaf in New Orleans is the one at Ye Olde College Inn. A sign there has illustrated the difference between whole and half oyster loaves to several generations of travelers through the Carrollton section. Although it’s pretty good (see below), the competition for a place on the top-twelve list is so intense that it doesn’t quite make it. (Your favorite source might not, either, but please tell me about it, in case I haven’t had one there.)
1. Crabby Jack’s. Jefferson: 428 Jefferson Hwy. 504-833-2722. Quantity of oysters on a sandwich is not the main issue in the rankings, but this one could win on that matter, as well as the just-fried goodness and seasoning of the oysters. I once counted over forty oysters on a sandwich here.
2. Katie’s. Mid-City: 3701 Iberville. 504-488-6582. The best fryer of seafood among the full-menu neighborhood places.
3. Casamento’s. Uptown: 4330 Magazine. 504-895-9761. Top quality oysters, fried to order, and served on the unique “pan bread.” (It’s like the bread used for oyster boats, but cut differently.) If only the hours were more convenient and the attitude more amenable.
4. 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 Acme is a local chain with a lot of chain-related peculiarities. But it’s also a very long-running (over 100 years) vendor of oysters, which are always great any way you get them–even in a poor boy.
5. Charlie’s Seafood. Harahan: 8311 Jefferson Hwy. 504-737-3700. If you don’t mind waiting awhile for a great sandwich (or a table), you’ll love this one. Owner-Chef Frank Brigtsen sets the standards here as you’d expect.
6. 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. The three locations of this fine mostly-seafood house are among the best fryers in the city.
7. Parran’s Po-Boys. Metairie: 3939 Veterans Blvd. 504-885-3416. A roast beef specialist, Parran’s also serves lots of fried seafood platters. The oyster poor boy isn’t a stretch for them, and they have some interesting variations on the theme.
8. Zimmer’s . Gentilly: 4915 St Anthony Ave. 504-282-7150. Zimmer’s is a great little seafood house in Gentilly, selling fresh and boiled seafood. That explains the goodness of the seafood loaves here.
9. Mr. Ed’s. Metairie: 1001 Live Oak. 504-838-0022. ||Kenner: 910 W Esplanade Ave. 504-463-3030. Mr. Ed’s makes almost everything in the line of neighborhood New Orleans eats, which includes a lot fried seafood. Which is just as good on French bread.
10. Johnny’s Po-Boys. French Quarter: 511 St Louis. 504-524-8129. Roast beef is really the specialty, but Johnny’s heavy hand with the fried-to-order oysters makes its loaf worth putting your appetite against.
11. Pontchartrain Po-Boys. Mandeville: 4700 LA 22. 985-792-0499. The North Shore’s best maker of poor boy sandwiches of all kinds, as deft with the fried seafood varieties as with the roast beef and ham.
12. Bozo’s. Metairie: 3117 21st Street. 504-831-8666. Bozo’s still has a great oyster bar and a way with oysters that sends them out golden brown and crisp, on hot (always hot) French bread. But it’s not as consistent as it once was.