4338 St. Charles Ave
Happy Hour: Monday through Sunday 4:30 – 6:30. Friday and Saturday 10:00 – 11:00 (drinks only). All Saints and LSU Tigers games (drinks only).
Full disclosure: We frequent this place more than any other in town. Yes, it’s five blocks from the apartment, but more than that, it has so much to offer. The happy hour items are half price on beer and wine, and 50 cent raw oysters. We were fortunate enough to get a sneak preview of upcoming happy hour entrees. More on that later…
It doesn’t matter how good the food, drink, or prices are, bad customer service will ruin everything. After a year or so of living in New Orleans, one learns to lower their expectations in this regard. There are places in town who seem to forget they are in the service industry and treat their patrons like war criminals. Fortunately, it’s not a concern here. After a warm and sincere greeting by the hostess, we planted ourselves at the bar. Within thirty seconds, we were then welcomed by Thomas Houston – a manager who was tending bar that night. Like everyone else in this establishment, Thomas has always taken great care of us. Not because we’re regulars; he attends to all customers in a cordial and enthusiastic manner. He moves so fast, it was almost impossible to get a good picture. His spinning and flipping of the cocktail napkins is particularly endearing. Other staff members who contribute to great customer service include Terry, Derek, Chris, Hollis, and Kelly. You will be treated very well here.
Thomas Houston. Manager/Bartender extraordinaire.
Derek. One of many friendly faces behind the bar.
Time for a drink. This is a seafood restaurant, not a taproom. The beer selection is limited, but does offer the local staples, including NOLA Blonde and Abita Amber, as well a few other quality choices; nothing even remotely resembling swill here. There are plenty of options for the discerning wine enthusiast. Nancy generally leans towards the Pinot Grigio, which apparently complements the oysters quite well. Another feature of happy hour is two for one on frozen drinks, which include Pomegranate Mojitos, Mimosas, and the French 75. Whatever your beverage of choice is, they’ve probably got it covered. If not, they can certainly improvise.
Oysters. I don’t claim to be an expert on oysters. I dabbled a bit at the Henry Street Taproom in Saratoga Springs, NY. They had raw oysters for a dollar each on Monday nights. It didn’t do much for me. When I moved to New Orleans, I realized what I’d been missing all this time. My first experience with char-grilled oysters resulted in the following proclamation; “Holy shit!” Now, if we go to Superior, we get raw oysters – no exceptions. Raw oysters are an acquired taste, and some prefer char-grilled. I’ve come to appreciate and embrace the purity of the raw. The shuckers are extremely skilled. Who wants to work to get the oyster out of the shell? As an aside, one of them – Jay – is a turtle obsessive. Go figure. Even when the place is busy, you rarely wait more than a few minutes. They come with saltines, ketchup, horseradish, and lemon, with more options available, such as Worcestershire and various brands of hot sauce. We are partial to Crystal, by the way. Whether you load them on a saltine, or suck them off the shell, you’ll be ready for another dozen before you know it. As for the char-grilled, they’re not on the happy hour menu, but do yourself a favor and make room for them anyway. You yourself just might proclaim “Holy shit!” as well.
For now, raw oysters are the only food item on the happy hour menu. That will change in the very near future. As of September 1st, some wonderfully unique and particularly local culinary delights will be available at happy hour prices. Thomas approached us a few weeks ago and told us that they were kicking around some ideas. The first sample of the evening was buffalo oysters. Yes, more oysters. Breaded oysters with buffalo sauce topped with blue cheese. These are just as good as the sound. The next offering was gumbo gravy fries. A local twist on poutine, with shrimp, and no cheese curd. We were enjoying this with local musician Davis Rogan the previous week (Is it too early to name drop?) and witnessed him dipping French bread in this delectable concoction. Brilliant. As if all that weren’t enough, Thomas then presented us with crawfish mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet. Penne pasta with plenty of cheese sauce and a generous amount of crawfish. There was a kick to this, but not overwhelmingly so. With all of these, plus the obligatory oysters, this was enough for the two of us. There would be no cooking for us that evening.
Buffalo oysters. Perfection.
Gumbo gravy fries. So much awesomeness in one bowl.
Crawfish mac & cheese. Well beyond comfort food.
As for the atmosphere, nothing says “New Orleans” more than watching the streetcars pass by as you dine. Well, due to the seemingly endless road work on St. Charles, the streetcars aren’t running at this time. Hardly a deal breaker, but it is a nice touch. Personally speaking, the noise level at a restaurant is also crucial. Having to shout to the person seated next to you really kills the mood. If I want loud music, I’ll go down to Frenchman Street. They do a good job of keeping the music at a reasonable level. There is live music on selected nights, however, which is simply a pianist/singer. Some have more a local flavor, other lean towards pop music. This is not the proper venue to expand on my personal taste. Suffice it to say that I prefer those who avoid the trappings of pop. Keep an eye out for Davis Rogan.
So that about covers it. We are clearly fond of this place. Give it a shot. You will not be disappointed. Tell your friends.
St. Charles and Napoleon.