How to do oysters in New Orleans

Oysters
New Orleans

How to do oysters in New Orleans
How to do oysters in New Orleans

Credit: Flickr / Jules Morgan
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The Pelican State still claims some of the best, biggest, freshest, cheapest oysters on the planet. Even though we enjoy them all year long -- that “month that ends in ‘R’” rule doesn’t apply here, because our water doesn’t get cold enough for the oysters to hibernate, nor are they prey to certain natural diseases affecting the bivalves of the Northeast and West Coast (and also because we’re awesome) -- we always think of Fall and Winter as oyster season, which, if you check your calendar, just started, so here are some of the best ways to enjoy a favorite local delicacy.

Credit: Scott Gold

Best raw bar: Peche Seafood Grill
The most recent addition to Donald “Sausage” Link’s restaurant group might be the culmination of the chef and his partners’ years of research travelling the globe studying live-fire cooking, the totally fire-free raw bar at Peche offers some of the best bivalves in town, chosen from specific Louisiana oyster areas with an emphasis on freshness and size, which actually means they tend to be smaller, thus giving them a more concentrated salinity.

Credit: Scott Gold

Best charbroiled oysters: Drago’s Restaurant
They may not have invented throwing oysters on a grill over hot coals, but Drago’s certainly perfected it. Their charbroiled oysters were a NOLA culinary game changer -- everyone in town seems to grill theirs these days, but none so good as the original, skinny dipping in hot pools of melted butter (the best for sopping with fresh French bread) and topped w/ a seasoned cheese blend, they’re a dozen teeny, survivable heart attacks on a plate, and totally worth it. Pro tip: If you can, hit the original location in Metairie instead of the more Vegas-y outpost downtown (especially for lunch).

Credit: Scott Gold

Best oyster shooter/oyster Bloody Mary: Acme Oyster House
Acme is great for a number of reasons: their shuckers are the most entertaining; they hold the annual oyster-eating competition; not to mention that they’ll keep de-shelling for you at the bar until you say “when”, tallying your total consumption by stacking the shells in front of you like some kind of primitive currency, then demanding some clams from you. But their real strong suit is the cocktails, either a spicy Bloody topped with a raw pearl-smith (the briny kick makes it similar to a “Bloody Caesar”), or the oyster shooter, a shot of cold vodka w/ a raw bivalve and a dollop of cocktail sauce.

Credit: Scott Gold

Best "flying" oysters: Casamento’s Restaurant
There are a few things you should know about Casamento’s: They’ve been rocking the raw bar for nearly a century (1919, to be specific); it’s closed during the summer months; it’s small, so be prepared for a wait; and they have literally the coldest oysters in town, courtesy of a special stainless steel “oyster box” that keeps the bivalves cool sans ice, so they’re never watered down. But you should also know that if you slip him a tip as you wait in line, shucker-extraordinaire Mike will joyfully shuck an oyster directly into your mouth from across the room. Now that’s talent!

Credit: Scott Gold

Best Oysters Rockefeller: Tie, Antoine’s Restaurant and Galatoire’s Restaurant
It’s hard to go wrong with a dish so rich, it was literally named after the wealthiest man in America at the time, John D. Rockefeller. Antoine’s Restaurant created this classic in 1899, with a “secret” recipe that combines oysters on the half-shell, topped with an intense sauce of pureed vegetables and then baked. Antoine’s is still totally solid, but Galatoire’s also does a damn fine job with their version.

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Best fried-oyster po-boy: Ye Olde College Inn
The humble oyster loaf is a thing of such beauty and pride in New Orleans, “where to find the best” is a question among locals that quickly turns into a deeply-studied, passionate, rabbinical debate. Most of the places listed above will provide an excellent erstah sandwich (with special attention paid to Casamento’s, which serves theirs on buttery Texas toast), as will Parran’s, Crabby Jack’s, Domilise's, Mandina’s, Parkway Bakery, R&O, and the list goes on from there. But we’re going to pull the trigger and recommend Ye Olde College Inn as the favorite, a perfect combination of fried oysters and pillowy, flaky French bread, “dressed” w/ lettuce, toms, pickles, “mynez”, and hot sauce.

Credit: Scott Gold

Best new oyster dish: smoked, fried oysters at Grande Isle Restaurant
What can possibly be better than lovingly-fried Louisiana oysters? Lovingly-fried Louisiana oysters that have first been cold-smoked, to impart a delicate, luscious aroma of wood-fired BBQ. That's what.

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1. Drago's Seafood Restaurant 3232 N Arnoult Rd, Metairie, LA 70002

Home to locally renowned charbroiled oysters, this 400-seat restaurant offers an extensive seafood menu that includes classics like Drago's Original Charbroiled Oysters and Mama Ruth's Gumbo. Pro tip: Once you're done ravaging your herbed garlic butter-smothered oysters, wipe up every last oily drop with the restaurant's French bread.

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2. Peche Seafood Grill 800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Central Business District)

At PSG, East Coast flavors meet Southern hospitality in the form of Cajun inspired charcoal grilled seafood delicacies, raw bar options, and oysters on the half. This Warehouse District space features a rustic, wood-lacquered dining room that's spacious and yet intimate; the perfect place to catch up with a group over a seafood tower "for the table."

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3. Casamento's 4330 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

A New Orleans landmark since 1919, Casamento's is the grandaddy of all oyster bars, serving up fried oyster po' boys and equally delicious raw oysters, shucked right in front of you. The space is small and completely tiled, because the owners know oyster juice spillage is inevitable when you're marathon-slurping your meal.

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4. Acme Oyster House 724 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (French Quarter)

This iconic oyster spot may have a number of locations, but despite its chain status, it still serves some of the tastiest seafood in New Orleans, not to mention some interesting cocktails that include an oyster-topped Bloody Mary and oyster shooters w/ vodka.

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5. Antoine's Restaurant 713 Saint Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (French Quarter)

Opened in 1840, this classical and elegant St. Louis Street restaurant features 14 uniquely-styled dining rooms in which to enjoy French-Creole cuisine. It is in its 5th generation of family ownership, passed down from founder Antoine Alciatore. Dinner is an elegant and delicious ordeal, and you'll be dining where dozens of famous people have feasted before you, their photos now lining the walls. There's room for 700+ guests all dressed in formal attire so, what can we say, laissez les bons temps rouler!

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6. Galatoire's 209 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (French Quarter)

Established in 1905, Bourbon Steet fixture Galatoire's is all about re-creating old-timey antebellum New Orleans ambiance through classic French Creole cuisine. Jackets are required dress code when dining at this high-end traditional establishment. However, you won't feel overdressed; the waiters are all suited in tuxedos. With more than 2,000 square feet of luxurious space, Galatoire's has three floors: the first being the main dining room, the second (able to accommodate over 250 people) meant for larger special events, and the third is home to a smaller private dining area.

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7. Ye Olde College Inn 3000 S Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70118

This NOLA favorite has been around since 1933, but its unique Cajun, Creole, and Southern flavors never go out of style, with a menu laden with po-boys and fresh fish.

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8. Parran's 3939 Veterans Blvd., Metairie, LA 70002

This Metairie strip mall spot has been serving up po' boys, burgers, and club sandos since 1975. If you thought Italian Cajun fusion wasn't a thing, think again! Parran's is actually the originator of po'boy bread, and they're serving it right alongside classic spaghetti and meatballs. While their muffaletta is served on the classic round, seeded Italian loaf, on the inside, it’s all fried seafood po-boy, spilling over with fried shrimp, oysters, and catfish, and dressed in the typical fashion with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayo. No matter your NOLA sandwich style, you're covered at Parran's.

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9. Crabby Jack's 428 Jefferson Hwy, Jefferson, LA 70121

The po-boy has gained legend status in NOLA thanks to places like Crabby Jacks, whose award-winning oyster po-boy has been delighting patrons since the place opened in 2002.

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10. Domilise's Po-Boys 5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70115 (Uptown)

No one does po-boys like Domilise's. The Uptown spot has been owned by the same family for over 100 years, which accounts for the consistently good eats and veritable Southern hospitality that has brings regulars back time and time again. While you really can't go wrong with anything on the menu, we suggest you stick to the seafood and opt for a fried oyster or catfish po-boy. If the handpainted sign overhead isn't enough of an indication that you've arrived at this cozy, yellow house on the corner, the steady line of regulars waiting for a table likely will.

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11. Mandina's Restaurant 3800 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70119 (Mid City)

This Canal St destination for Italian fare and creole seafood is renowned for its pink building as much as it is for its turtle soup and fried trout. The brick- and wood-accented space enforces a family-friendly atmosphere, and on any given night, you'll see tables packed with multiple generations of cajun lovers indulging on signature oversize portions of fried fish.

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12. Parkway Bakery & Tavern 538 Hagan Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119 (Mid City)

No one does po’boys like Parkway, and it’s no surprise: the Mid-City spot has been open since 1911, and the po’boy has been a staple of the menu since 1929. Regardless of whether you’re a local, a passerby, or even President Obama (who makes a point to snag a golden fried shrimp po’boy here when business brings him to the Big Easy), you really can’t go wrong with any of these delicious bad boys, all of which are served on fresh, house-made bread. Pro tip: if you can’t handle the spice level, a booze-loving mint julep will help.

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13. R & O's 216 Metairie Hammond Hwy, Metairie, LA 70005

R & O's plates a variety of Creole/Cajun dishes, but they're best known for their po' boys and other tasty sammies.

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14. Grand Isle Restaurant 575 Convention Center Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Central Business District)

This family-style resto focuses on fresh ingredients, whether it's their fish and seafood that they receive daily, or their garden salads that're always served w/ dressings made in-house.

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