#3 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
It’s amazing how many great New Orleans restaurant institutions were created by Croatian entrepreneurs. The “-ich”-named people left behind Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Gentilich’s, the Crescent City Steak House, Sam’s Place, Uglesich’s, and many other memorable eatiries. Drago’s stands about them all. Drago and Klara Cvitanovich, well connected to the world of oyster fishing in Louisiana, opened their restaurant in 1969, and became a standard. One of their dishes–char-broiled oysters–has become what may be the most imitated seafood dish in the restaurant history in New Orleans. And they keep leading the way, innovating as they go.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
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.
The oysters, raw or grilled, are reason enough to come here. They come from premium Louisiana sources and are hard to beat. Those who like lobster find very fresh ones here; they sell so many that none of the crustaceans hang around long enough to lose their fat. The rest of the menu starts where most casual seafood restaurants stop. Fried seafood platters are a footnote to a menu that offers many other delicious opportunities.
Drago Cvitanovich and his wife Klara–both of whom are still active in the restaurant–are Croatian immigrants who worked in the local seafood business for years before opening their own restaurant in the 1970s. One of the first businesses in Fat City, it was always good, but never was especially busy. Their son Tommy came along with some fresh ideas, and seemingly overnight Drago’s became one of the busiest restaurants in town. Their second location, in the Riverfront Hilton, is the top-grossing restaurant in the entire Hilton chain in America. The efforts Drago’s family made after Katrina (and other disasters before that), and their activity in the community lend further good karma.
The Metairie restaurant’s high-tech design makes for lively sound. A lot of that comes from the usually large crowd waiting in the bar for tables. That’s almost inevitable in the Metairie restaurant, particularly on Fridays and in Lent. The oyster grill is a centerpiece, with columns of flame and steam bursting around the bivalves. The downtown restaurant sort of overlaps the gigantic Riverside Hilton hotel’s lobby. It’s more spacious, but the same casual feeling obtains.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Raw oysters on the half shell
Drago’s original char-broiled oysters
Sushi grade raw tuna, wasabi dressing, Cajun aioli.
Crabmeat Mediterranean salad
Lobster salad, mixed greens or spinach.
Chicken & andouille sausage gumbo
Fleur de lis shrimp (sautéed with peanuts, red pepper aioli)
Crescent City shrimp (a take on barbecue shrimp)
Wicked squid (fried squid, peppers tossed, sweet-spicy glaze.
Seared tuna & avocado salad, Cajun aioli, soy vinaigrette
Duck spring salad, blackened rare, greens, candied walnuts, cranberries, bleu cheese
Mama Ruth’s seafood gumbo
Shrimp & corn bisque
Oyster brochette (broiled, wrapped with bacon, fried, Jack Daniels glaze, horseradish sauce
Mixed grill of char-broiled half Maine lobster, petit filet, blackened shrimp, Cajun cream sauce, corn maque choux.
Shrimp & eggplant stack
Seafood pasta (shrimp, crabmeat, cream sauce, angel hair pasta) Herradura shrimp or oysters (sautéed with sun-dried tomatoes,
pine nuts and onions, tequila, grilled portabella mushroom)
Boudin-stuffed shrimp, corn maque choux.
Oysters Hoisin (grilled, creamed spinach, bacon,
Bordelaise sauce, cheese)
Maine lobster any size, any style
Lobster Empire (stuffed with sautéed oysters, mushrooms, angel hair pasta
Catch of the day, prepared in choice of six ways
Shuckee ducked (blackened rare duck breast, linguini pasta, oysters and cream sauce.
Marinated portabella mushroom sauteed with Prime filet tips
Twin filets, collard greens, potatoes
Crawfish or shrimp etouffée (as per season)
Fried catfish, oysters, shrimp or combo platter
Bananas foster cupcake
FOR BEST RESULTS
The restaurants are open all afternoon, and the crowds thin out then. Order fried seafood only if you must; it’s not really a specialty, compared with the grill side of the menu.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The unavoidable crowd during peak hours in Metairie can create stressful moments. There is a parking shortage in Metairie, although not as bad as it once was). The downtown Drago’s has validated parking in the hotel’s garage.) It would be nice to have a real oyster bar again (they only serve raw oysters at tables).
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 +1
- Consistency +2
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color +1
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner (CBD only)
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Free valet parking
- No reservations