In an effort of full disclosure, I must admit that I am not a good Catholic. I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school, and even graduated from a Catholic university, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a terribly observant Catholic. And so when Lent rolls around, I usually attempt to come up with something – anything – to give up, only to find myself breaking that Lenten promise within a matter of days.
But one aspect of Lent I seem to have no problem sticking to? Meatless Fridays. And how is that, you may ask? Easy: because I can eat as much delicious New Orleans seafood as I want AND make my mother happy at the same time. Two birds, one stone.
And just because Lent is technically supposed to be about giving something up and repentance, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a touch of indulgence, right? So for all you practicing Catholics, non practicing Catholics and non Catholics who just happen to be jonesing for some seafood on a Friday evening in New Orleans: take note. Here are my top seven picks for seafood in the city.
1. GW Fins – Fins is in their name and seafood is their game at GW Fins in the French Quarter. This upscale New Orleans seafood restaurant exceeds expectations with their largely locally-sourced and supremely fresh seafood, all prepared in-house with vibrant sauces and garnishes. Their Asian-inspired yellow fin tuna and wahoo, when in season, are stand outs on the menu, but you really can’t go wrong with any of their delicious dishes paired with carefully-selected sides. If you need further convincing, GW Fins’ genious chef Tenney Flynn won New Orleans Magazine’s Chef of the Year in 2011 and he’s on the Louisiana Seafood Chefs Council, in case you were wondering the quality of their credentials.
2. Kingfish – Kingfish in the French Quarter has sophisticated seafood dishes like Butternut Squash Lobster Bisque, Blue Crab Chop, Seared Sea Scallops, and Seafood Cassoulet. The place also serves as a cocktail bar, serving up signature drinks and New Orleans classics.
3. Pascal’s Manale – Barbecue Shrimp is arguably one of the greatest inventions in all of New Orleans cuisine, and it all came from the kitchen at Pascal’s Manale. For those not familiar with the iconic dish, it’s a far cry from what we typically think of when we think of barbecue. The shrimp are served head-on in a broth-like sauce of spicy buttery amazingness with tons of French bread for dipping – because dipping is more civilized than just drinking the sauce, which you’ll likely be tempted to do.
4. High Hat Cafe – High Hat is among the outstanding restaurants to pop up along the stretch of Freret Street between Napoleon and Jefferson avenues. The menu is all about southern comfort – most notably their crispy thin fried catfish plates. Be sure to order a side of their sweet potato salad, and be on the lookout for their Satsuma Lemonade, which is downright addictive when they have it.
5. Big Fisherman Seafood – Want to enjoy seafood like a true local? They swing by Big Fisherman Seafood, pick up a few pounds of boiled crawfish (or shrimp), ask them to throw in a few potatoes, garlic and corn – and a crab or two for good measure – then head to The Fly up by Audubon Park to enjoy your picnic feast. You should also swing by Breaux Mart right across the street to pick up some beer and a whole lot of paper towels (you’ll need them). Also, be sure to grab some newspaper to pour the crawfish out on – and remember, the more sturdy of a base you lay down, the easier your clean up will be.
6. Pêche – Donald Link is known for working pork wonders, but his latest restaurant venture Pêche focuses on regional seafood. There are many different options depending on what you are in the mood for. A raw bar features fish, seafood salad, shrimp, oysters, or a large sampling platter to try some of everything. For smaller bites, there’s tapas-style plates including catfish, spicy shrimp, and mussels, plus lamb and grilled chicken for non-seafood options. For seafood in a different form, try the shrimp bisque and seafood gumbo for a bowl of Louisiana comfort. If you’re looking for a real feast, there are plenty of offerings for larger entrees, and vegetarian diners will enjoy their attractive side selections like fried Brussels sprouts and cauliflower & rice casserole.
7. Borgne – Borgne, another relatively new addition in New Orleans to the Besh Restaurant Group, specializes in coastal Louisiana cuisine, primarily seafood. Chefs John Besh and Brian Landry put their seafood loving heads together to create Borgne, conveniently located in the CBD close to the Superdome for a pre-game bite, the French Quarter for a big night out and for a great lunch spot near plenty of hotels and the Covention Center. Whether it’s oysters, calamari, jumbo shrimp or gulf fish, they have it in many styles and preparations.