Laissez Les Charbroiled Oysters Rouler
I’ve been doing this food blogging thing for a little over 3 years so I wouldn't exactly consider myself a culinary expert, but I can tell you one thing with certainty; just because a restaurant invented a foodigenous, doesn’t always make it the best. There’s been more than a few times that I’ve trekked to the original spot for something, only to find out that it’s , "ehh okay, I guess". That’s not the case with New Orleans’ Charbroiled Oysters. While there are an abundance of charred bivalve molluck options thoughout the Big Easy, it’s my humble opinion that Drago’s Seafood stands head and shoulders above the competition. And that’s saying a lot, because those “other places” are all iconic in their own right. There’s something special about Drago's original version of freshly shucked gulf coast oysters topped with a juicy, herb and garlic butter sauce, dusted with Romano and Parmesan cheeses before being charbroiled to a piping hot, delciously golden perfection. This should not be confused with clams casino or oreganata. The absense of bread crumb allows the sweet oyster meat to be the star.
Oysters and New Orleans are Synonymous
Okay, not literally, but it's hard to think of Nawlin's iconic foods without having some version of oysters near the top of the list. Whether it's Oysters Rockefeller created at Antoine's 1889, a fried po boy from Parkway Tavern or a dozen shucked with the skill of a surgeon at Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House topped with a dash of Crystal Hot Sauce and finished with a heap of horseradish, oysters are everywhere. On the corner of Bourbon and Iberville St, Felix's put the New Oreans oyster bar on the map when they set up shop in the 1940's. Acme Oyster and the aforementioned Bourbon House followed suit and opened right across the street creating the greatest cluster of oyster bars anywhere in the world. They survived hurricanes and natural disasters (Deepwater Horizon) and have continued to turnout some of the best seafood for decades. But surprisingly, they did not invent the charbroiled oysters that they now sell by the thousands, Dragos did!
In 1969, in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, Drago and Klara Cvitanovich opened up their seafood restaurant boasting a menu of fresh and regional recipes. They've since expanded into multiple locations and according to their website they now sell over 900 dozen oysters a day. It wasn't until 1993 when Tommy Cvitanovich (2nd generation) messed around in the kitchen and created the original charbroiled oyster which they proclaim to be "the single best bite of food in town". It's hard to disagree. In a city of amazing foods, if I only had an hour to spend in New Orleans, I'd likely defer the pagentry of one of the Creole Grand Dames, and instead belly up to the bar for a dozen charbroiled and an ice cold Abita Lager.
Drago's New Orleans location on the ground floor of the New Orleans Hilton has the feel of chain restaurant, but don't let that fool you, as I said, their original charbroiled oysters are orgasmic. Ask for extra bread to soak all the broth, as this dish is served wet. If you can't make it to the OG, follow the neon lights to Iberville. Acme Oyster has a dark
and gritty neighborhood bar vibe, and that's a good thing. Their charred oysters tend to be saltier, but the oysters are big and meaty and they give you a lot of juice. Felix has a brighter feel and the oysters have less of a char, but are still scruptious. Grab a seat at the bar and watch one of the old timers shuck your oysters to order. Don't forget to sample their bread pudding, one of the best in the Quarter. The reality is, you can't go wrong at any of these amazing restaurants and if you are smart, you'll do your own food tour and decide for yourself who makes the best.
Favorites are arbitrary. If I failed to mention your preferred spot, let me know and I will add it to my list. No matter how many times I go to New Orleans, I'm always adding new spots to try.