#27 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Harrah’s Casino at the feet of both Canal and Poydras Streets is the biggest but not the only part of the Harrah’s juggernaut. It owns several hotels, between which are quite a few would-be major restaurants. Ruth’s Chris Steak House is the most prominent of these. Gordon Biersch Brewery is probably the busiest. Manning’s is the worst.
And Grand Isle is the best. The environment appeals to natives with memories of trips deep down into bayou country as well as to out-of-towners who find the place somehow convincing. The seafood-dominant menu is not only deftly rendered but wide in its range of main ingredients. I encounter many more species of finfish here than almost any other restaurant. Meatier grub, with dark-roux sauces and long-cooked stews, also get ordered often enough.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
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.
This is emphatically a seafood house, with the oyster bar the most attractive source of eats, followed by boiled, fried, and grilled seafood platters. An all-appetizer meal is the best plan of all, although the grilled fish of the day is always nice.
Grand Isle opened in the back end of Harrah’s Hotel in 2004, with Chef Joel Dondis as the original tastemaker. It opened with a strong seafood offering–particularly in the oyster and chilled seafood departments–and a bunch of overly inventive country-style dishes. Mark Falgoust took over the kitchen in 2008, and after an initial dip, the cooking has steadily steadily improved, with familiar local classics replacing the early contrived dishes.
If you’ve ever been to the likes of Grand Isle (the town), you’ll recall some elements of the decor here. But really the place is too slick and surrounded by too many tall buildings for that feeling to take hold. That matter past, it’s a pleasant dining room with cypress panels and, wood floors, and tile, surmounted with historic photos of the real Gulf Coast.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Oysters on the half shell
Smoked fried oysters, garlic aioli
Creole tuna tartare
Grand oysters (baked with tasso, havarti, jalapeno)
Oysters Fulton (baked with bacon, cheddar, caramelized onions)
Oysters Fourchon (baked with olive oil, bread crumbs, parmesan, lemon, garlic)
Combo of all three above
Barbecue shrimp (New Orleans style)
Mussels, white wine, tomatoes, capers, lemon, garlic
Shrimp and roasted eggplant soup
Chicken andouille gumbo
Shrimp remoulade, salad of Creole tomato, cucumber, red onion
Poor boy sandwiches
Fried shrimp or oyster
Shrimp Caminada (spicy citrus butter, herbs, Asian slaw)
Alligator sausage, pickled onions, Creole mayo
Cold-smoked, grilled fresh tuna, horseradish cream, sautéed spinach, sweet potatoes
Chili butter baked fish
Whole fried fish of the day
Grand Isle fisherman’s stew (fish, shrimp, oysters and mussels)
Shrimp and grits, andouille gravy
FOR BEST RESULTS
The simpler the dish (starting with raw oysters and boiled shrimp), the better it will be. The saucier fish dishes sometimes are overly complex. But a fish like sheepshead a la meuniere is near the top of the list for that underrated fish. The meat dishes are not bad, but are there mostly for those who don’t eat seafood.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
They had great oysters Rockefeller and Bienville here when they first opened, and I wish they still did. The servers often seem distracted.
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 +2
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Sidewalk tables
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open most holidays
- Open after 10 p.m.
- Open all afternoon
- Oyster bar
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted