Of all the depredations laid down by hurricane Katrina to the New Orleans restaurant community, the worst was surely the total destruction of West End Park. With a history of dining as long as any other part of town but the French Quarter, the seafood restaurants along the shoreline predated the Civil War. Louis Armstrong's first great record was "West End Blues." Getting out there by way of boats, streetcars, and finally automobiles, every year at this time New Orleanians were pulled to West End for a platter of boiled and fried seafood. It truly was a rite of spring--one we can honor again. Sort of. [caption id="attachment_40821" align="alignnone" width="480"] Deck at the Blue Crab[/caption]
New Orleans aches for restaurants with views of Lake Pontchartrain. All we had for years after the storm was the chain Landry's, with a fine lake vista but unconvincing food. The Blue Crab is more like we remember from Bruning's, Fitzgerald's, Swanson's and all the other great West End seafood houses. Both in its food and its environment, everything about the place shouts localism. Noisy dining rooms, open decks, a great look at the sunset, and big piles of seafood make it the most nostalgic new restaurant in town. [caption id="attachment_40822" align="alignnone" width="480"] Raw oysters.[/caption]
The Blue Crab towers twenty feet above the spot where Bart's stood for decades, alongside what's left of the New Basin Canal, where private boats line up at their berths. At the Blue Crab's own dock, mariners can have food brought to their boats, or they can climb up to the dining room. The Blue Crab opened in July 2013, almost two years after the first announcements of its coming. It was the third eatery to appear on the canal since Katrina, following Landry's and Brisbi's.
The building, being outside the levees and right on the water, rises some 20 feet in the air. (There's an elevator.) This affords most diners a view of something or other. The outer deck looks across the phalanx of yachts and the Southern Yacht Club itself, with the Causeway and that lake underneath it framing the sunset at the appropriate time. These are, for obvious reasons, the most popular tables in the house, but the indoor dining rooms also give airy views. Unfortunately, when the indoor dining room is full, it is very noisy.
If you go out on the deck on a hot day, you will be thankful for the Bali Ha'i-style tropical cocktails the bar makes so well and generously.