#16 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
If you always liked Pascal’s Manale and its food, you’re in luck. It’s still the same. If you took a bad first (or thirty-eighth) impression at some time in the past, whatever caused it is probably still in place, too. A good slogan would be: “Pascal’s Manale: It Is What It Is.” Fortunately, a large number of people like what it is, and many of those either dine there on a regular schedule, or hit the place every time they come to town. Manale’s has fans all from over the map.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Having entered its second century, Pascal’s Manale is more than old enough for its Italian roots to be thoroughly hybridized with Creole cooking. That happy blend gave rise to one of the city’s most distinctive and best dishes: barbecue shrimp, now served by just about every restaurant that serves shrimp. With such a venerable past, it really is more like a neighborhood hangout than the major culinary landmark that it is. Families of customers have dined here for generations, table-hopping to talk with friends who may well have been dining here last time. Although it attracts many tourists, it still feels intensely local.
The food at Manale’s comes mostly from out of the past. Honestly retro, Manale’s plays no games with its food–even though after all these years a few games would be welcome. Its famous barbecue shrimp are a Creole take on shrimp scampi, and much better. They’re totally misnamed, neither grilled nor smoked, with no barbecue sauce. Just gigantic heads-on shrimp cooked in a distinctive pepper-butter sauce. The many oyster dishes–from raw on the half shell at the bar to the Bienvilles–are as good as any you’ll find anywhere. The rest of the menu is full of local classics, sometimes with an Italian flavor, sometimes not.
Frank Manale opened the restaurant in an old grocery store in 1913. The menu was first-generation New Orleans Italian. His nephew Pascal Radosta bought it some years later (hence the unique name). Two brothers joined him in the business, which resulted in a big family tree from which a third and fourth generation are still in place. Brothers Bob, Sandy, and Mark DeFelice and sister Ginny are there every day.
In 1955, a customer asked Pascal Radosta about a dish he had in Chicago but couldn’t describe well. Radosta took a shot at cooking it, and wound up with a new dish along the lines of shrimp scampi, but with a much more peppery sauce. He gave it the misleading name as barbecue shrimp. It quickly became the restaurant’s signature dish, as well as one of the greatest of Creole dishes.
Both main dining rooms are informal, and the bar even more so. A complete renovation after Hurricane Katrina made the place brighter and cleaner in design than before. Autographed photos of the famous who’ve eaten there cover the concrete-floored bar’s walls. Also in that room bar: one of the city’s best oyster bars.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Raw oysters on the half shell
Shrimp and crabmeat remoulade
Combination pan roast (shrimp, crabmeat, oysters, green onions)
Insalata alla Manale (greens, olives, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, artichokes, pepperoncini, vinaigrette)
Barbecue shrimp (whole shrimp cooked in pepper-butter sauce)
Veal gambero (panned veal with barbecue shrimp)
Chicken bordelaise (garlic, wine, mushrooms, pasta)
Frutta di mare (cappellini, scallops, jumbo lump crabmeat, oysters, shrimp, marinara)
Grilled fish Orleans (shrimp, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, cappellini)
Strip sirloin steak
FOR BEST RESULTS
Manale’s is well-known nationwide, so when the town is full of visitors the place is packed. The steaks are much better than one might imagine, and may in fact be the best entrees here.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Manale’s is ever in need of refreshment in its menu. But it has not sat still. In recent years, they greatly improved all their red-sauce dishes, and the menu and specials are better than they had been. They need to take a look at presentations, which with little effort would convery more perceived value. Unless you’re known to the management, the front end of the restaurant comes across as indifferent.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +1
- Attitude -1
- Wine & Bar -1
- Hipness -1
- Local Color +2
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Oyster bar
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted