Oyster bars are easy to size up. The standards are clear: you want oysters that are big, cold, scrupulously fresh, taken from the best sources, and shucked so that a minimum of dirt and shell fragments get onto the oyster. There is no style aspect to raw oysters. Which is, of course, what's great about them. No food so delectable is closer to nature.
Despite the BP oil spill and the indirect damage it did to the Louisiana oyster beds, more restaurants serve raw oysters of excellent quality than we've enjoyed in decades. Or perhaps ever. More restaurants are installing oyster bars, even with all the mess, problems, and personnel needs they entail. There isn't one on the following list that I wouldn't eat oysters from with enthusiasm. The divide between the top and the bottom is not enormous — a good sign.
Thanks to cold weather, oyster season persisted longer than usual. They have been enormous and meaty. But even in mid-summer, whatever they may lack, they make up for with cold contrast with hot weather. What could be more satisfying than two dozen icy raw oysters if it's in the mid-90s? Or higher? Following are New Orleans' 10 best spots for oysters.
1.Drago's The oyster king of New Orleans, Drago Cvitanovich long ago established connections that bring the best Louisiana oysters to bear not only on its raw operation, but its original char-broiled jobs. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Jason Lam)
2. Pascal's Manale Not just a way to kill time while waiting for a table, Manale's oyster bar has a long record of great shucking.
3. Bozo's A long tradition of great oysters at the bar, and the best fried oyster in town.
4. Casamento's Figuring out when they're open is the main challenge. The goodness of oysters are beyond question. Coming up on 100 years. (Photo courtesy Flickr_miamism)
5. Felix's Acme's long-time rival, across Iberville Street on Oyster Row. The most-photographed neon sign in town: "Oysters R In Season."
6. Acme Oyster House The city's oldest oyster bar, 100-years-old last year. Oysters come from all over (Texas, sometimes), but are consistently good.
7. Bourbon House The biggest, most comfortable oyster bar on Oyster Row. (Photo courtesy Flickr_Michael Dietsch)
8. Lüke Not just oysters, but lots of other chilled seafood on trays of ice at Chef John Besh's restaurant.
9. Red Fish Grill Consistently fine oysters in a bar you won't see immediately.
10. Grand Isle The best part of this restaurant is what they do with oysters. Good raw bar, and it goes from there.
And because the love for oysters is so strong in New Orleans, following are seven more good spots for great raw bar in and around the city.