My studio is registering a ridiculous 98°F degrees on the thermostat. I now know what that F stands for. As I sit and boil, I try to think of places hotter than where I am right now. I certainly would be more miserable in New Orleans heat now, right?
Wrong, it’s five degrees cooler and they have way better food and drinks there. This did not make me feel better. So, I decided to write a long overdue post about an oyster crawl my main ninja Jo and I created for visits to “NOLA”.
This is the second crawl we designed. In Kitchen Ninja style, we eliminated and added new locations to the crawl. This is a work in progress. Sweet.
NOLA: I am not going to go into my obsessive love for New Orleans. In a nutshell, I have been there a bunch, I love it, it is like drugs to my soul. However, I can’t live there. I would get big as a house and get nothing accomplished. This is because I would easily adapt to the lifestyle of 5 hour happy hours. I “do” NOLA in moderation and often as possible. This is usually an extended weekend trip once a year, “done up right” and then continue to fantasize about the next trip for the rest of the year. I am still a tourist, I am not claiming to be a native. I am a huge fan. I celebrate their whole catalog.
OYSTERS: The most excellent thing about oysters is that you can eat a ton of them and not get full. The second best thing is there are so many ways to prepare them, and they are all most excellent. Unfortunately, due to the BP oil spill a lot of NOLA oysters are being imported from other locations from the Gulf. This is sad because the local oysters are far bigger and better but what can they do? On the right is a map of the Gulf oyster area.
CRAWL: I have bolded the specialty from each restaurant we recommend. You can do this in one night, but it takes a while so don’t make too many more plans after except maybe a stroll down Frenchman street for some great music at the Spotted Cat. You don’t need reservations to do this crawl. You can do it on your own as you can order half dozen orders at most places. If you are worried about dress code, then you can always sit at the bar. Nobody really judges dress in the French Quarter, but some places like Mr. B’s and Bourbon House have a little more formal looking clientele. I don’t think they really care at all, but sitting at the bar is a great option. Plus, you don’t take up a table because you will be there for such a short time.
How awesome am I? I created a printable Google Map for you to take with you.
Stop 1: Felix’s – 739 Iberville Street • Tel: 504-522-4440
This was our first stop on the first crawl and even though it didn’t go first on the second, I must list them first. This is because if you are only going to one place in the French Quarter for oysters, this is the place. It wins on atmosphere alone as it is a total dive and is the real deal. Both times we were there they served up Louisiana Oysters. They shuck them right on the bar and serve ’em fast. You even get to mix your own cocktail sauce! Of course, there are plenty of crackers, Louisiana hot sauce and lemons on hand. We only ordered raw oysters on the half shell here, but they do have additional varieties including char-grilled, Rockefeller and Bienville.
A dozen and a half oysters later, we felt like we were done with this stop rather quickly (because it came so fast & went down so quickly), but we knew we had to move along to the next stop, across the street!
Stop 2: Bourbon House – 144 Bourbon Street • Tel: 504- 522-0111
Seriously friendly folks working here. We had this on both crawls and the service here is always over the top with
smiles. The bar is huge, has a beautiful display of ice for the oysters and they shuck them right in front of you if you sit on the round. Each time we visited here, we had champagne, a 1/2 dozen raw oysters (you can order them with caviar if you wish) and the “Trio of Oysters” which is a combination of three types of Rockefeller. Permanently added to the crawl. Oysters Fonseca, Oysters Rockefeller and Oysters Bienville make up the trio. A lot of restaurants have their own versions of the Rockefeller and Bienville, but this place offers you a variety which is most awesome. If you are not into raw oysters, this is the way to go! I am sure everything in this beautiful restaurant is fantastic, but we were on a mission!
Stop 3: Red Fish Grill – 115 Bourbon Street • Tel: 504- 598-1200
HELLO! Where have you been all my life oh BBQ Oysters? Wow, talk about fan-tabulous! We sat at the bar, had Abita’s on draft and then ordered the BBQ oysters. The first batch came out a little sad as they were not really hot. However, the bartender was super attentive and quickly rushed us out a second batch and it was like giant hearts blew out of my eyes. Oysters are flash fried and tossed in a Crystal BBQ sauce, served with house-made blue cheese dressing. I am in love. I wouldn’t have posted the bit about the first batch, but wanted to commend the restaurant for its customer service and how it is important that they are hot when you eat them. Sometimes, things happen and it is the difference between coming back or not…or blogging about it! The rest of the menu looked divine, but not uncommon for the area. Discipline is difficult when you have had a few drinks in you.
To those outside of the area, this is NOT the crappy chain you may have seen or been to in the past. This is what kept me away the first crawl. Thanks to the kind folks at Bourbon House recommended this for a new addition.
Stop 4: Luke’s – 333 St. Charles Ave.
This spot is not in the French Quarter but within a few blocks. You probably need a good walking by now. If you are doing a full crawl, you should try to come here first perhaps take part of the Happy Hour Specials of $0.50 raw oysters and 1/2 price bar from 3pm to 6pm daily. All of the drinks are off the charts! They have all the NOLA drink specialties like Sauzerac, Mint Julep and a tasty French 75. We also tried the highly recommended “assiette de charcuterie” plate served with stone-ground mustard, house-made pickles and country bread. They actually raise their own pork so it is super impressive. DIVINE. This is one of the restaurants in the mighty Chef John Besh collection.
Stop 5 (option 1): Arnaud’s– 813 Rue Bienville • 504.523.5433
This was our final stop on the first crawl for baked oysters. We mostly stopped because Bananas Foster seem the easiest to go down even if you are full, and it is on fire. We loved that we could listen to some jazz, drink some champagne and watch flames going up all over the restaurant! I would like to start here on the next crawl as they have a great sampler of all of their varieties of baked oysters.
Stop 5(option 2): Mr. B’s Bistro – 201 Royal Street • 504.523.2078
HOLY SHIT. (Yah? Whatever, just try and wash my mouth out with soap) If you haven’t had a fried oyster in your life, then wait until you get here because it is like the holy grail of fried oysters. They are served on the half shell and topped with bacon-horseradish hollandaise. Get a dozen if you are only coming here or a half dozen if you are on a crawl with a friend. Even if you are full, this should be the last stop on your crawl if you are looking for a good finish. Sit at the bar and enjoy! The desserts all looked really amazing but we had champagne instead. Everyone who ordered dessert at the bar sent their plates back empty. I did not get a good photo because it was dark and we just wanted to consume it quickly, but if you go to their web site you can see it. Look fast because your stomach may convince you to buy a flight out tonight.
Cochon: 930 Tchoupitoulas St – We didn’t eat here the same night as our oyster crawl because this place is an experience not to be messed
with. I have to say the wood-fired oyster roast was the best prepared oysters I have ever had in my life. Odd for a place that is the French word for “Pig”, but they nailed it! It is a short cab or good walk right from the FQ so you should check this place out! Ninja’s LOVE Cochon! You will probably need a reservation here, but maybe can sit at the bar. Call ahead at 504- 588-2123
FOR MORE VARIATIONS TRY THESE: We went to Drago’s and it was closed. I have been told they have the best Char-broiled oysters, not the ones with bacon. Also want to check out Royal House as they apparently have some great ones too according to the concierge from the Hilton at Luke’s. We just didn’t have time! Also, try a fried oyster Po’boy at some point on your visit but not on the crawl as it will fill you up on bread!
SKIPS: Acme Oyster House….long line, had the charbroiled oysters which were good but not really worth standing in line for. The atmosphere we a bit bleak and over touristy. If you must go to this place, maybe check out the one at the airport.
Now I know there are more oyster joints than in the FQ. So if you want to comment on this post, keep in mind I moderate and don’t want a bunch of complaints I forgot so and so, etc. Some places we went to on the outskirts don’t count as FQ but it isn’t more than a couple blocks so I listed them anyway. This is our crawl and it is meant as a guide to help other crawlers. If you want to add to the blog about other places in the vicinity (especially if you are local), please send me the name, address or web site and what the best oyster dish or dishes are that you recommend. I will approve comments that contribute!
There may be a risk associated with consuming raw shellfish, as is the case with other raw protein products. If you suffer from chronic illness of the liver, stomach or blood, or have other immune disorders, you should eat these products fully cooked.