Oysters at Lüke (Photo: Joshua Brasted)
If you’re not from the Gulf Coast, here are two thing you need to know about oysters in New Orleans: They’re huge. And, they’re cheap. Some are big enough that you might feel the need to ask for a knife and fork. Don’t. Even those the size of a hamburger patty slurp down easily. As for price, $1 for a oyster (not counting the shucker’s tip) is standard, although you can knock off half to three-quarters during happy hour.
One other thing: cocktail sauce. It’s typically a DIY thing. You’ll get ketchup, lemon, horseradish, hot sauce and sometimes Worcestershire, and a small container to mix it in. Locals have their own ideal ratio. Find yours.
With acres of gleaming white tile everywhere, this uptown institution can feel like a runaway New York subway station hiding out in a New Orleans hole-in-the-wall. Start with a dozen or two raw oysters, and then explore the menu’s offerings, including oyster loaf (a sort of BLT with fried oysters) and gumbo.
Located on the St. Charles streetcar line about a dozen blocks from downtown, the Blind Pelican can at times feel like a Tulane outpost with a slew of students getting their bivalve on. And no wonder: from 4 to 8 p.m. you can get oysters on the half shell for a mere $3 a dozen, or $7.50 for chargrilled (when ordering drinks).
This old school Creole Italian restaurant, founded 1913, is really two restaurants in one. The Italian fare — served with what’s locally called “red gravy” — is in the back. Oyster fans don’t make it that far. They get hung up in front, where a marble-topped standing oyster bar is often manned by “Uptown Thomas” Stewart, a deft shucker and even defter storyteller. Buy chits for a dozen or two oysters when you order a beer, and then wander over to where Thomas keeps them coming until your account runs dry.
Head to this down-home French Quarter spot with the neon sign out front if you’re allergic to frills. It has the unadorned sensibility of a Midwest diner, and is loud and bustling with a line down the sidewalk during peak times. (Although usually not as long as the better known Acme Oyster House across the street.) Start with a dozen each of raw and chargrilled, and opt for some turtle soup or alligator to round out your visit.
This civilized outpost of renown local chef John Besh has the feel of a Belgian bistro transplanted into the Central Business District. Expect lots of tile, marble and echoey chatter, accompanied with a sideboard of seafood, including half-price oysters during happy hour. The seafood towers (they are exactly what they sound like) range from $29 to $125, and will surely satisfy your need for creatures from the briny deep.