If you want to eat some good seafood, and you want to eat it at a NOLA institution, Casamento's on Magazine Street fits the bill. I fell in love with this place the minute I saw it, though we had to find something else to do with ourselves while we waited for it to open. It was so worth the wait.
The problem was that we arrived too early. Tip #1: they open for dinner at 5:30, Thursday through Saturday only.
So we headed toward the track, to visit Liuzza's, famed for its po' boys--a tip from Davey and Gracie. BBQ shrimp po' boy? Garlic oyster po' boy? Yes. But along the way, we got distracted by the idea of stopping on St. Charles for a drink somewhere, then got even more distracted by a new route which ended up taking us downtown. We decided to land in the Quarter. I found my first-ever parking place on Bourbon Street (a very big deal). Since we were there, we thought, "Frank's"--we'd heard great things about it. Alas, our stay was short. Under pressure from our waiter, we ordered crab-stuffed mushrooms, which were highly flavorful, but $10 for three? Ouch. Tip #2: Frank's is tasty but priced for tourists. Luckily, we mustered the courage to brave the rain and the traffic and head back to the car, by way of Molly's. Tip #3: Molly's is a cozy little place, but it gets real fratty on Saturday night. Back uptown, we returned to our starting point at 7:00 p.m., which was just in time to beat the crowd.
Casamento's was established in 1919 and still inhabits the same location. It's small, tiled, and bright, and you walk through the miniscule kitchen to get to the restrooms. I absolutely love walking through restaurant kitchens. More!
At Casamento's, the sandwiches are "loaves," which differs from a po' boy by bread. The bread for a loaf isn't the light, fluffy New Orleans French that you expect when you order a po' boy. It's thick-cut white toast, the type I normally call "Texas." Somehow that doesn't feel right anymore. I guess I'll start calling it "loaf." I think there's a little garlic butter spread on this bread. Your basic NOLA "dressing" of mayo, tomato, and lettuce, and then the lightest, freshest fried catfish you can imagine. Oh my.
The menu is small but complete. Everything you could want in a New Orleans seafood joint is there: seafood gumbo (a tomatoey version), fresh, juicy raw oysters ($9 a dozen! $4.50 half dozen!), fried trout and catfish, softshell crabs. The star, to me, was the catfish loaf I ordered--the best-tasting sandwich I've had in this city, bar none. I'm a fan of Casamento's for several reasons, but their "small prices"--the choice you have of ordering a full-sized dinner for $12 or a half-sized dinner for $6.75--are the most important, for me. I'm a taster. I don't need a huge plate, and I usually don't even want it. I respect a restaurant that does something to keep me coming back: excellent food, fair price.