The least pretentious of the seven century-old New Orleans restaurants, the Acme acts its age in its signature activity. Their oysters have always been among the city's best, both in the raw bivalves and the grilled oysters--the latter a recent borrowing from Drago's. Most of the rest of the menu is standard New Orleans neighborhood eats, but in much of that the kitchen comes across as the small chain restaurant that it is, with less range in its offering, particularly the finfish.
The original Acme Oyster House on Iberville has always been popular, but during the past decade it has become a must-visit eatery for visitors to New Orleans. It's so busy that many local Acme fans have forsaken it for the other Acme locations--the best of which is the one in Covington. The place can become habit-forming. It serves all the New Orleans neighborhood-cafe classics, from gumbo and seafood platters to red beans and roast beef poor boys.
The Acme on Iberville Street is the Antoine’s of oyster bars, its history stretching back to 1910. Oyster bars were a recent import from New York City. Our estuaries produced first-class oysters in quantities so vast that oysters were (and still are) a delicacy that could be afforded by anybody here. When the current owners took over about twenty-five years ago, they turned a sleepy but very fine little cafe into a phenomenon, just by jazzing it up a little. The satellite locations came in the 1990s, and have lately begun opening well outside of New Orleans, with Acmes in Metairie, Covington, Baton Rouge and Sandestin.
All the locations are different, except for one common motif: neon signs everywhere, one proclaiming "Waitress Available Sometimes." (There's a joke in there somewhere.) The Iberville original is the roughest, most beat-up of the bunch (people love that about it; it's widely believed that a restaurant can't be real Nawlins without being funky.) The Metairie restaurant is a former Mexican cantina, not much renovated from that look. The most pleasant Acme is the Covington location, which has a separate room for the oyster bar and a clean, bustling environment in the television-surrounded main room.
Whether oysters are a main course or an appetizer, have them at the bar to get the biggest and best ones. Order twice as many of the grilled oysters as you think you'll eat. If there's a line in front on Iberville Street, go for oysters to the Bourbon House or the Red Fish Grill instead.