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15 Best New Orleans Seafood Restaurants
Where to go for great seafood in New Orleans? The easier question to answer might be: Where to go to avoid it?
It is only a slight exaggeration to say every restaurant in New Orleans is a seafood restaurant. Louisiana's seafood is literally the fuel that powers Lent; the delicate flesh that keeps our chefs' more bodacious tendencies in check (oysters en brochette notwithstanding); the primary ingredient that differentiates New Orleans' Italian restaurants from Philadelphia's, our steakhouses from Chicago's, our oyster bars from Seattle's and our Creole restaurants from the rest of the world's.
This spring, we created a guide to the 15 New Orleans' best seafood restaurants (click here to jump to the list) in an attempt to define what a New Orleans seafood restaurant is when so many would appear to qualify. The difficult task required setting parameters.
For the purposes of this guide, I considered only full-service restaurants -- which is to say, no order-at-the-counter places -- leaving out most of the boiled seafood retailer-restaurants that are a local breed unto themselves. That our 2014 Spring Dining Guide identified the top 10 places for boiled crawfish in New Orleans made the pruning of boiling houses easier to digest, even if it meant leaving some of my favorite new seafood discoveries of the past few years -- Bevi in Metairie and the Seafood Pot in Destrehan top that list -- on the cutting room floor.
Our working definition of a New Orleans seafood restaurant also doesn't account for restaurants that churn out exceptional seafood dishes without taking seafood as their defining identity. The metro area is silly with such restaurants. You'll find many of them mentioned in our feature on 15 iconic New Orleans seafood dishes, an admittedly selective primer concerned with those menu items that anchor our white tablecloth restaurants in south Louisiana's soggy soil.
Coastal communities -- from Florida to New England and on over to the Pacific -- sprout seafood restaurants that speak to native crops and tastes. Our guide organizes and identifies those restaurants that should animate New Orleans' thick chapter in this ongoing American story. Five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill threatened the raison d'etre of these particular eating establishments seemed like an apt occasion to revisit them.
I arrived at the number 15 by unscientific means, but it's not an entirely arbitrary amount. After musing over a long list of names, 15 appeared as a happy compromise that allowed for a guide that is both inclusive and discriminating.
Nevertheless, the list cuts a wide swath, selective as it is, both geographically and stylistically. The positioning of one restaurant next to another should not be assumed to mean I believe they're qualitative equals. They are, rather, examples of the best of a broad array of restaurants that could possibly come to mind when a diner's thoughts turn to eating where the scents of the kitchen are perfumed by the aromas of the ocean.
The guide is part of an ongoing project to dish out the New Orleans area's bottomless dining options in digestible portions. It's a task that requires wrapping mind and appetite around unwieldy, often highly debatable subjects. The guidance here is offered in the spirit of answering the calls of cravings that arise while living on land beneath the sea.
15 Best New Orleans Seafood Restaurants
RED FISH GRILL
115 Bourbon St., 504.598.1200
Giving people what they want at the foot of Bourbon Street is a tricky business when you run a restaurant with white tablecloth pretentions. The Red Fish Grill manages to succeed with haute Creole cooking pitched respectfully to the masses; a raw bar outfitted with good wine and beer; and service that aims to earn your repeat business.
Style: An upscale Louisiana oyster bar and seafood restaurant with mass appeal.
Best Catch: Barbecue crab claws, raw oysters, wood-grilled Gulf fish in lemon butter, crab cakes.
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