New Orleans' Top Restaurants for the Freshest Seafood

Shrimp Etouffee is a dish symbolic of New Orleans unique cultural blend
Shrimp Etouffee is a dish symbolic of New Orleans' unique cultural blend | © Simon Reddy / Alamy Stock Photo
Lucy Thackray

Just up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans knows a thing or two about seafood, with shrimp, crab, crawfish, oysters and fish all key tenets of the city’s culinary repertoire. Local chefs craft their menus according to seasons, working closely with fishermen from the region to secure the best supplies. The result? Prawn-loaded po’boy baguettes, innovative seafood salads and flavor-loaded gumbos. Here, we check out the best places to eat fresh fish and seafood in the Big Easy.

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Seafood Dock at the French Market

French Quarter outdoor covered arcade food and flea market inside in Louisiana famous city during day shop

Close to the French Quarter, the river and many of the best bars in the city, this is a right-in-the-action choice if you’re on a flying visit. It’s a stripped-back street-food counter frying up signature NOLA dishes – from boiled crawfish to jambalaya – and the shellfish is so fresh you’ll see it on ice minutes before it’s transformed into your lunch. Take your paper plates lined with greaseproof paper to pavement-side tables beside the market. Don’t miss the smoothie-thick bloody marys stuffed with olives and jalapenos.

This 20-year-old success story is an elegant, old-fashioned dining room with wooden posts and beams – reminiscent of a ship’s masts. It has lashings of sea-blue and metallic, marine-inspired art. The menu is a mix of trad southern hospitality (lobster bisque, red snapper with okra) and international (lionfish ceviche, tuna tacos); co-founder chef Tenney Finn is so knowledgeable about the fruits of the sea that he’s known as the fishmonger of the South. There’s a sustainable ethos here: the menu is led by what’s most plentiful in the Gulf of Mexico, with chefs aiming to use every scrap of the fish.

Boil Seafood House

This down-to-earth family hangout, all wooden booths and cartoonish menus, comes into its own every crawfish season (early March to mid-June). When the crawfish pots start simmering, locals dash across town to rip off heads and suck out juices – this is the sort of place you order buckets by the pound, with the simply seasoned critters served alongside boiled potatoes and corn cobs. Po’boys, seafood salads and the Cajun-spiced Voodoo Rice offer a more comprehensive picture of Louisiana cuisine.

Pêche Seafood Grill, New Orleans

If you want to get away from the weekend crowds in the French Quarter and dig into how the locals dine, a night out in the Warehouse District is just the ticket. Head there for this industrial-chic joint, all raw, unpolished woods and intact fish heads – the professionals pour in each night for big, ice-packed metal trays of oysters served with saltine crackers, whole grilled drum fish or big slabs of swordfish. Notably cheery and informative staff will talk you through the menu and their personal favorites. Not that you can really go wrong whatever your choose.

Seaworthy

For a razor-sharp modern option, head to this slick number at the Ace Hotel. Sit on inky-blue leather banquettes or at the marble countertop to work your way through the menu of craft cocktails and freshly shucked oysters – we’re talking dozens of options from the Gulf, East and West Coasts, so ask your server for flavor and texture notes. After your raw-bar fix, dip into lobster rolls and dressed scallops with a tequila-and-prickly-pear cocktail. Take a look at the building before you head in – it’s a preserved Creole cottage that dates back to 1832.

Crabby Jack’s

Most famous for its po’boys – hefty baguettes stuffed with fried shrimp or other fishy fillings – this diner on the eastern side of town is worth a detour. Cajun-spiced seafood platters feature catfish, oysters and grilled Gulf fish, complemented by no-frills sides of coleslaw, potato salad and onion rings. This is a beer-from-the-bottle kind of place, dishing up comfort food just the way Louisianan grandmas make it. It’s a bit of a trek if you don’t have a car, but a breeze for those road-tripping onwards through the south.

Acme Oyster House

The party-central French Quarter has a handful of great oyster and raw bars, but neon-lit Acme is the local favorite. Always busy, it doesn’t take reservations, so expect a wait to experience the garlic-buttery chargrilled oysters, served on checked tablecloths under a fizzing ‘Waitress Available Sometimes’ sign. Sit up at the counter for the best atmosphere and watch the team in action – most of the staff have been shucking oysters for around 40 years.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Ann Marshall.

Why not make a weekend of it? Book a stay with Culture Trip at one of these quirky boutique hotels in the French Quarter or stick to a tighter budget at one of these budget hotels and hostels in Mid-City. There’s plenty to keep you busy too, from ticking off the best things to do in New Orleans off your bucket list to exploring the best museums around or trying local specialties such as a po’ boy at these top spots.

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