#21 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
3 Fleur
EntreePrice-16
BreakfastNo Breakfast SundayNo Breakfast MondayNo Breakfast TuesdayNo Breakfast WednesdayNo Breakfast ThursdayNo Breakfast FridayNo Breakfast Saturday
LunchLunch SundayNo Lunch MondayNo Lunch TuesdayLunch WednesdayLunch ThursdayLunch FridayLunch Saturday
DinnerDinner SundayNo Dinner MondayNo Dinner TuesdayDinner WednesdayDinner ThursdayDinner FridayDinner Saturday

Middendorf’s

River Parishes: Exit 15 off I-55, Manchac. 985-386-6666. Map.
Casual
AE DS MC V
Website

ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
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).

Thin-cut catfish.

Thin-cut catfish.

WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Say the word “catfish,” and most avid New Orleans eaters (as well as those between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and as far away as Jackson, Mississippi) think of this funny German name. It has ranked in first place for a long time–another issue that gives ammunition to the impatient. But the goodness of its fried seafood can’t be denied. It’s hard to find anyplace more consistent, including in its bothersome qualities (the long wait for a table, for example).

Boiled crabs at Middendorf's.

Boiled crabs at Middendorf’s.

WHAT’S GOOD
All the seafood here is fresh and prepared to order. The frying is incomparable: the golden color of the cornmeal crust (they change the oil out many times a day) tells that story. The catfish is served either in small fillets or in the restaurant’s signature thin-cut variety. The former is better. Also here is a full array of casual seafood platters, including rarities like whole fried flounder. Among the appetizers are great sleepers–notably the variations on grilled and baked oysters. Lest there by any doubt about the new owners, they kept almost the entire staff and all the old recipes.

The old Middendorf's, in the hurricane Gustav flood.

The old Middendorf’s, in the hurricane Gustav flood.

BACKSTORY
The site of Middendorf’s has a rich history. It’s on the northern littoral of Pass Manchac, way out in the marshes between Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain, which in the 1700s was the frontier between the United States and the Spanish Isle of Orleans. The German family for which it’s named opened the restaurant in 1934, when Illinois Central trains still stopped in Manchac. The family operated and expanded the place as its fame grew. The third generation sold Middendorf’s to Chef Horst Pfeifer and his wife Karen, who owned the superb Bella Luna in the French Market until Katrina. Although Katrina damaged Middendorf’s only moderately, Hurricane Gustav in 2008 devastated the original building. That allowed for a major restoration of that structure and its kitchen. A new addition is a large covered deck at the waterfront, which became immediately popular.

DINING ROOM
After Gustav, the main building was dramatically remodeled to make it look even older and more remote than it already was, with cypress floors and walls, creating a look that fits the restaurant and its history perfectly. An entirely neww building continued on this theme, with a fake oak tree and a bar made from cypress trees that had been at the lake’s bottom since before the Civil War. The service staff is always been stressed, and while they deliver everything on time, they don’t visit the table as much as you might expect.

Barbecue oysters at Middendorf's

Barbecue oysters at Middendorf’s

FULL ONLINE MENU

BEST DISHES
Starters
Crab or shrimp gumbo
Turtle soup
Oyster stew
Shrimp remoulade
Boiled shrimp, crabs, and crawfish in season
Barbecue oysters
Italian oysters

Entrees
Fried catfish: thick, thin, or whole
Broiled barbecue catfish
Fried seafood platters
Stuffed crab
Whole fried or broiled flounder
Fried chicken
Catfish, oyster, shrimp, or soft-shell crab poor boys

Desserts
Banana bread pudding
Homemade ice cream

FOR BEST RESULTS
Get the thick fish, not the thin–at least the first time. (The thin fish is very thin indeed, and not for everybody.) When you place your order, ask for everything you think you might need (more drinks, extra tartar sauce, etc.), because you might not be able to get it quickly later. And ignore the buzz about how Middendorf’s isn’t as good as it used to be. In its essential aspects, it hasn’t changed at all.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
More service staff on the floor would surprise everyone favorably. An oyster bar would be a great addition.

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 +2
  • Service
  • Value +2
  • Attitude +1
  • Wine & Bar
  • Hipness -1
  • Local Color +3

 

SPECIAL ATTRIBUTES

  • Courtyard or deck dining
  • Good view
  • Good for business meetings
  • Many private rooms
  • Open Sunday lunch and dinner
  • Open some holidays
  • Open all afternoon
  • Historic
  • Good for children
  • Easy, nearby parking
  • No reservations

2 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. Jim and Cindy Rhodes on July 24, 2015

    Looking forward to spending our 33rd anniversary here. We drove from Houston. We spent several days trying to decide where we wanted to eat on our anniversary. We agreed on Middendorf’s after reading Tom Fitzmorris’ reviews. We will let you know how good it isn’t!!! Bon appetite.

  2. Michael Conroy on February 23, 2016

    Stopped by there recently and had the whole flounder at the bar. It was perfect and the ambience was special. It is one of those places that brings back wonderful family memories and the food is better than ever c

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