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Food & Drink

Fun On the Halfshell: New Orleans Oyster Festival

Red Fish Grill's BBQ Oyster Po-boy (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

I personally like mine raw. Or fried. Oh, I’m talking about Louisiana’s favorite aphrodisiac: the oyster. In true New Orleans fashion, we have a festival dedicated to the oyster. New Orleans Oyster Festival is celebrated every year along the Mississippi River at Woldenberg Park. This year’s fest takes place on Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2, 2019. Oyster Fest is two full days of eating and live music at one of the most picturesque spots in the city. Here’s a few reasons why you should add Oyster Fest to your calendar:

  1. It’s free to get in, and everyone is invited!
  2. Go hungry— there are nearly two dozen New Orleans restaurants serving oysters in every way imaginable.
  3. Wear your dancing shoes! It’s a big party with lots live music, fun contests you’ll want to watch, and family-friendly crowds.
Oyster Fest (Photo: Paul Broussard)

The Food

Obviously, the star of the show is the oyster. You can experience the signature charbroiled oysters from Drago’s, or a local staple, the classic Fried Oyster Po-Boy.

If you’re feeling a little fancy, you can venture to Andrea’s for the oyster artichoke with angel hair pasta, the fried oyster tacos from Food Drunk, or crawfish boiled oysters from Superior Seafood.

There are lots of non-oyster options as well, such as shrimp and alligator cheesecake (think savory, not sweet) from Jacques-Imo’s, crawfish rolls from Redfish Grill, chicken and waffles from Desire Oyster Bar, and the cauliflower-mash vegan veggie bowl from Jazzy Keto.

Dessert lovers, you have to try the bread pudding from Desire Oyster Bar. Between that and the snowballs from NOLA Snow Snowballs, you’ll definitely satisfy your sweet tooth.

To break up some of your eating, there are cooking demonstrations on both days with chefs preparing (and sampling) their favorite oyster recipes.

Soulful southern rockers Honey Island Swamp Band close out first day of the 2016 Oyster Fest on Saturday, June 4.
Soulful southern rockers Honey Island Swamp Band close out first day of the 2016 Oyster Fest (Photo: Paul Broussard)

The Music

A New Orleans festival wouldn’t be complete without a solid music lineup. On Saturday, you can start off by jamming out to Remedy, catch Maggie Koerner midday, and end the day with funky, hip-hoppy sound of Shamarr Allen & the Underdawgs. Sunday’s lineup includes Amanda Shaw, the Bucktown Allstars, Brass-A-Holics, and Bag of Donuts.

Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas is the reigning champ of the Acme Oyster House Oyster World Oyster Eating Championship, a real MLE event.
Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas is the reigning champ of the Acme Oyster House Oyster World Oyster Eating Championship, a real MLE event (Photo: Paul Broussard)

The Contests

To add a little extra spice to the fest, there are a few can’t-miss contests:

  • On Saturday at noon, there’s the P&J Oyster Shucking Contest, where the area’s top oyster shuckers from our favorite oyster bars compete to see who can shuck the most oysters in just two minutes. The trick is, the oysters must be shucked cleanly, so appearances count. Last year’s winner was Jay Galette of Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar having shucked 21 Louisiana oysters – a festival record.
  • On Sunday at 11:45 a.m. is the Acme Oyster House® World Oyster Eating Contest. The name says it all: who can eat the most oysters in eight minutes. The record is held by Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, who has eaten 47 dozen oysters in 8 minutes. YOU GO GIRL!

On display in a tent on Saturday afternoon will be the New Orleans Fish House Largest Oyster Contest, where Louisiana farmed oysters are judged by weight, length, and width on who has the biggest prized oyster around. The largest oyster last year was submitted by Terry’s Oysters of Port Sulphur, La., weighing in at 3.22 lbs. – a festival record!

The Crafts

Also at Oyster Fest, you’ll find terrific gifts and goods to take home from local vendors. Jewelry, plates, socks, shucking gear, wooden boards, pirogues, ceramic oysters, and more are all on sale at the fest.

Amany is a registered dietitian and NOLA native, who grew up just across the CCC on the West Bank. Amany is a foodie in the best food city in the world. When not 'dietitianing' and eating, you can find her running miles around the city and discussing important life decisions over an iced coffee, with a splash of almond milk.

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