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15 best New Orleans seafood restaurants, from Borgne to Vera's
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.
It is only a slight exaggeration to say every restaurant in New Orleans is a seafood restaurant.
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.
Best seafood dishes
Brett Anderson selected 15 quintessential New Orleans seafood dishes - from barbecue shrimp to tout meuniere -- and offers advice about where to enjoy them. Take a look...
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
601 Loyola Ave., New Orleans, 504.613.3860
At Borgne, chef Brian Landry does for Louisiana seafood cookery what partner-boss John Besh does for French-Creole more generally at Restaurant August: He embraces it anew by way of innovation (crawfish etouffee fried rice) and through the elevation of dishes (oyster spaghetti, stuffed flounder) that deserve wider audiences. Borgne, located just off the lobby of the Hyatt Regency, is not as grand as August. The focal point is a long bar, well-stocked with beer and oysters, that is very conducive to watching sports. But at its best, Borgne's kitchen is among New Orleans' most accomplished.
Style: High-end seafood restaurant meets sports bar for the microbrew set.
Best catch: Raw oysters, ceviche, stuffed flounder, seared yellowfin tuna.
144 Bourbon St., New Orleans, 504.522.0111
The oyster bar is what you see upon entering Dickie Brennan's sprawling French Quarter seafood house. This is appropriate because the oyster bar is a major attraction: the source of not just fine raw bivalves and seafood salads but also charbroiled oysters and the city's most generous and statuesque plateau de fruits de mer. Executive chef Darin Nesbit is a seasoned executor of classic French-Creole seafood dishes.
Style: Traditional New Orleans seafood restaurant and oyster bar dressed as a Parisian brasserie.
Best catch: Plateau de fruits de mer, barbecue shrimp, Gulf fish on the half-shell, paneed veal with crab.
4330 Magazine St., New Orleans, 504.895.9761
The pocket-sized oyster bar is a great American restaurant sub-genre, and Casamento's is New Orleans' premier example of the form (See also Swan in San Francisco, Pearl in New York, Neptune in Boston.) The menu is hyper-focused on local seafood prepared in local ways - namely fried and, in the case of oysters, raw and charbroiled. Standing room around the raw bar is limited, but it's where you'll want to be while waiting for a table.
Style: Old-school New Orleans oyster bar, pocket-sized edition.
Best catch: Raw oysters, seafood gumbo, oyster loaf, soft-shell crab dinner.
3232 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 504.888.9254
Hilton New Orleans, Riverside Hotel, 2 Poydras St., New Orleans, 504.584.3911
The charbroiled oyster came to life at the Metairie original. The world has since gone gaga for butter-spitting, blister-causing, Parmesan-encrusted Gulf oysters. Wrapped around Drago's high-volume oyster service is an all-purpose New Orleans seafood restaurant, which at these New Orleans (and now Jackson, Miss.) restaurants also means lobster in just about any iteration you can imagine.
Style: Oyster-centric New Orleans seafood restaurant.
Best Catch: Raw oysters, char-grilled oysters, baked fish with collard greens, shrimp and grits with tasso.
2535 Metairie Road, Metairie, 504.832.0955
You got your boiled seafood, your fried seafood, your blackened seafood and your house specials that include more than a few things that aren't seafood. There are countless iterations of the same menu found all over the New Orleans area. (See also Harbor, Kenner Seafood and Morton's, all in this guide.) Few neighborhood seafood restaurants, however, execute as wide an array of dishes as excellently and consistently as The Galley.
Style: New Orleans neighborhood restaurant, seafood edition.
Best Catch: Crawfish hush puppies, soft-shell crab platter, blackened redfish, boiled crawfish (in season).
808 Bienville St., New Orleans, 504.581.3467
GW Fins opened in the early 2000s as a radical, fully formed idea: A New Orleans seafood restaurant that traffics in seafood and recipes from around the globe. The international lens takes in local products and dishes, too; it's all united by chef Tenney Flynn's talented kitchen staff, as skilled in internationally inclined new American cuisine as it is in French-Creole, and the fact that the air-freighted fish is as fresh as the local stuff.
Style: Upscale, globally focused New Orleans seafood restaurant.
Best Catch: Blue crab pot stickers, sizzling oysters, wood-grilled Scottish salmon, Parmesan-crusted sheepshead.
HARBOR SEAFOOD & OYSTER BAR
3203 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 504.443.6454
Harbor Seafood sprang to life in 1988, 10 years after the Fisherman's Cove, the retail seafood market next door. Both businesses are owned by Dave Robinson, who expands on the synergies exploited by so many boiling houses that double as the places you also buy shrimp and speckled trout to cook at home. The ingredients on the menu match what's available at the market. The result is a bustling, blue-collar oyster bar with a menu that covers all the bases.
Style: Neighborhood seafood restaurant with oyster bar.
Best Catch: Shrimp and corn chowder, boiled crawfish (in season), po-boys, seafood-stuffed eggplant.
920 Poydras St., New Orleans, 504.561.8914
Japanese cuisine does not immediately leap to mind when conversation turns to New Orleans dining. Yet, like in so many American population centers, sushi rolls are nearly as easy to find here as cheeseburgers. Komei Horimoto's sushi bar, established in 2001, is arguably the steadiest local source for one of the globe's most seafood-centric cuisines.
Style: Japanese restaurant with sushi bar
Best Catch: Kampachi sashimi, ponzu-sweetened oyster, fried soft-shell crab rolls, monkfish liver
3140 Loyola Drive, Kenner, 504.466.4701
This take-out boiling house and seafood market leads to a full-service restaurant that will likely bring to mind that place where your family always gathered for casual meals of fried shrimp and blackened finfish. The cooking is familiar, homespun and consistent across the food groups that define this particular genre: boiled, fried, blackened and raw.
Style: New Orleans neighborhood seafood restaurant and boiling house.
Best Catch: Soft-shell crab bordelaise, crab-mirliton soup, po-boys, grilled speckled trout.
30160 U.S. 51, Akers, 985.386.6666
New Orleanians have been road-tripping to this roadhouse restaurant stuck between lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain for more than 80 years now. The reason they travel out past the 'burbs for seafood so widely available closer to home? The patio with its picturesque view and the best thin-cut fried catfish around.
Style: Country-style Louisiana seafood restaurant on the water's edge.
Best Catch: Boiled crabs (in season), oyster stew, fried whole flounder, thin-cut fried catfish.
702 Waters St., Madisonville, 985.845.4970
The family-friendly bar and grill on the Tchefuncte River speaks with a distinctly local accent. It's a drawl that emanates from the seafood dishes on the menu, which run from raw oysters and marinated crab claws to boiled seafood, shrimp pastas and fried seafood platters of all persuasions. The "Hot Boiled Seafood" sign shines bright when those words are true.
Style: A Louisiana seafood restaurant fused with an all-American bar and grill.
Best Catch: Raw oysters, shrimp and crab bisque, boiled crawfish (in season), char-broiled catch of the day.
MR. ED'S OYSTER BAR & FISH HOUSE
3117 21st St., Metairie, 504.833.6310
512 Bienville St., 504.309.4848
This restaurant came to life in the old address of Bozo's, the legendary oyster bar and seafood house in Metairie. It more or less picks up where Bozo's left off, gussying up the space and executing a staunchly local seafood menu that also fits quite nicely at Mr. Ed's second location in the French Quarter. These restaurants are nothing new under the sun, but each is a pleasant reminder that you can never have too many reliable purveyors for icy cold raw oysters and eggplant casserole made almost entirely of crab.
Style: Neighborhood New Orleans seafood restaurant with an upscale sheen.
Best Catch: Raw oysters, Southwest oysters, seafood gumbo, redfish Amanda.
PECHE SEAFOOD GRILL
800 Magazine St., New Orleans, 504.522.1744
The most widely embraced new New Orleans restaurant in recent memory -- the James Beard Foundation named it Best New Restaurant in the country last year -- actually achieves what so many other restaurants only claim to: It reinvents the wheel. The wheel in question is the New Orleans seafood house. Chefs Donald Link, Ryan Prewitt and company invigorate the form with the help of a wood-burning oven, a raw bar, a boatload of whole finfish and a sensibility that accounts for influences (particularly Asian) that make this generation's New Orleans cuisine different than the last.
Style: Next generation New Orleans seafood restaurant and raw bar.
Best Catch: Raw oysters, smoked tuna dip, grilled whole fish with salsa verde, seafood pastas.
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.
2020 W. Gause Blvd., Slidell, 985.690.9814
Hurricane Katrina pushed this north shore favorite from its original perch on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain to a much less perilous spot: a Slidell strip mall. On the inside, the restaurant has retained the bric-a-brac design aesthetic favored in Key West and on the set of "Gilligan's Island," providing a welcome transporting environment for digging into the kitchen's classic Louisiana neighborhood seafood preparations.
Style: Neighborhood seafood restaurant with a raw bar.
Best Catch: Raw oysters, fried soft-shell crab, fried whole flounder, blackened speckled trout.