So far, I've talked about Cafe Du Monde
and Cochon Butcher
, the most iconic and the hippest places we ate in New Orleans; now let me talk about Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar, the best
place we ate in New Orleans.
Actually, that's inaccurate. Harbor Seafood isn't in New Orleans. It's in Kenner, which is actually the city you land on when you arrive to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
That is to say: Kenner is to New Orleans what Inglewood is to L.A. You're still technically in Inglewood when you're in LAX, and you're in Kenner when you land at MSY.
This fact makes the place even more elusive to non-locals. It's not listed in any guidebooks. It's never been featured in any travel shows. Bourdain and Zimmern haven't been here.
For these reasons, most tourists are clueless about its existence and pass right by it when they beeline it to the French Quarter. We did too, until one of our Uber drivers casually mentioned it out of the blue.
"Hey, do you guys like seafood?" he said in a hushed voice as he was making a turn.
"Yeah! We love seafood!" we said.
And it was then that he told us.
"Harbor Seafood," he said. "It's amazing. Crawfish. Oysters. Been there forever. Lines out the door. Gotta get there early. Have you had lunch? Go there now! It's just about to open. It's around the corner from your hotel. Down that way three blocks!"
We didn't go right then. We waited until dinner. It was our last meal before we flew out the next morning. And rather than walking, we took a Lyft. And when the Lyft driver asked us where we were headed, she corroborated the Uber driver's story.
"Oh, that is a VERY good place. My family and I go there all the time. Get the gumbo. It's been there forever. See, there's already a line. But it's a small place. It'll move quickly. I'll drive you up right to the front. Enjoy your dinner!"
And thus began an amazing night. A mind-blowing night. It was the New Orleans feast we'd been waiting for.
We ate until we nearly burst. We drank sweet tea and sweaty mugs of cheap $2 beer. We sucked the spicy juice out of crawfish heads, sunk our teeth into a snappy-spicy Cajun sausage, and gulped creamy, sweet, ultra fresh gulf oysters the size of paddles.
We ate and ate.
There was an amazing potato salad with bits of egg in it. And the gumbo was like New Orleans history in a cup.
We even devoured a fried-oyster-and-shrimp po boy and gumbo on special even though we were already stuffed by then.
"My God," we said to each other with wide-eyed disbelief as we bit into those sandwiches. "How spectacular is this po boy!?"
The bread's so light, airy, fluffy, with just the barest hint of a crackly crust.
How is it possible that the fried seafood, and the mustard, mayo, lettuce and tomato--something locals refer to as having your po boy "dressed"--end up tasting so much more than the sum of its parts?
And how is it possible this gigantic plate of food is $10.50, and the crawfish is $2.99 a pound, and the oysters $4.50 for a half dozen?
"Did you notice the crawfish isn't drenched in butter like it is at those crawfish joints in California?"
"Yes! Yet still it tastes better, spicier, sweeter!"
"We should've been eating here all along! Can we move here?"
"No, it's too humid. You'd die of heat stroke."
"But the next time we visit, we're eating here, like every night, okay?"
"Oh yeah, absolutely!"
3203 Williams Blvd.
Kenner, LA 70065
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Angelina's Pizzeria Napoletana - Irvine