New Orleans is a city of many passions: music, the arts, fine food, cocktails, and parties galore. But it’s also a city of oysters (they even have an Oyster Festival). The love for bivalves runs deep in these parts, and this city is teeming with options.The gulf varieties are big but mild – perfect for slurping in the raw, deeply fried, or dressed in butter to be chargrilled. Here are my favorites from a recent trip to New Orleans:
This iconic oyster bar comes with serious street cred – the gorgeously tiled, old-school joint has been hand-shucking their oysters since 1919. I was lucky enough to snag a seat in the front room to spy the sure-handed shuckers working their magic. The raw dozen came in a variety of sizes, all boasting an incredibly fresh flavor. And while Casamento’s shucks a mean dozen, the renowned oyster loaf is the big winner. My advice: Get both.
I missed out on Felix’s during a previous visit because I chose their rival, Acme, across the street. Now that I’ve tried both, my recommendation would be to skip the line of guidebook-toting tourists at Acme and prop yourself on a stool at Felix’s. I had a dozen raw and a dozen chargrilled (for breakfast!), but choosing a favorite would be impossible. Their raw option is fresh, clean, and can be dressed in a make-your-own cocktail sauce; while the chargrilled are perfectly fat, buttery, and smoky. Again, get both.
Named one of the "Top 10 Best New Chefs" by Food & Wine and winner of the James Beard award for Best Chef, John Besh has built a name for himself across Louisiana. Lüke isn't just an oyster bar, the restaurant also dishes out countless fresh seafood delicacies. I managed to guzzle down a dozen of the fresh oysters before enjoying a killer crab bisque and rich rabbit rillette. The oysters at Lüke tend to be on the smaller side, but what they lack in mass, they make up for in flavor. While I typically prefer my oysters in the purest form, dressed only with a squirt of lemon, their homemade horseradish kicked up the flavor and packed a serious punch.
Not an oyster bar, but one of the storied restaurants in New Orleans, Antoine’s holds the title of creator of the iconic Oysters Rockefeller (in 1889). A classic named for the richness of the sauce, this decadent dish uses the oyster shell as a vessel for a laundry list of ingredients, including spinach, butter, and anise-flavored liquor, like Pernod, all baked to perfection. While the rest of my meal at Antoine’s felt a bit lack-luster, the signature oyster dish remains a favorite.
The tiny, freestanding Uptown oyster bar is known for its BBQ shrimp, but serves up equally amazing oysters. I was lucky enough to snag a seat at the bar to witness Thomas "Uptown T" Stewart, a 20-plus year shucker at Pascal’s Manale, in full-swing. He's truly a Nola gem, having turned oyster shucking into an art form. I ordered another dozen meaty monsters and was rewarded, not only with a heck of a mollusk, but a helluva of a show.