#12 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
Red Fish Grill
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The first block of Bourbon Street off Canal Street was almost a no-man’s land after the major department stores closed. The first sign of life in lively scene there now was the opening of the Red Fish Grill, whose colorful digs and impressive casual cooking set off a trend. As if it had something further to prove, it was the first major restaurant in the French Quarter to reopen after Katrina, even though they had to use paper and plastic serviceware and bottled water even for dishwashing. It all made the statement that this somewhat wacky-looking restaurant was in earnest about its food. And it still is.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
It’s a casual seafood restaurant, but nothing like what those words usually imply. Frying, for example, is at most a footnote here. Grilling, on the other hand, is accomplished with a wood-burning grill. An oyster bar enhances the appetizer possibilities. It winds up being a lot like a gourmet bistro, both in terms of goodness and price, but in a very easygoing way.
The menu shows nine different species of fish in its wood-burning grill repertoire. Almost all of that is fresh and local, which is more of a rarity these days than one might imagine. The cooking style leans more heavily on updated version of very old dishes than most places, and they pull these off well. The grilling is done deftly, with a generous application of Creole seasonings throughout.
Ralph Brennan, who was present at the birth of the seminal Mr. B’s, opened the Red Fish Grill in 1996. It was unusual for the Brennans in that it was much more casual than its other places. And it was the first Brennan establishment owned solely by one Brennan. When the Bourbon House–operated by Dickie Brennan’s side of the family–opened with a somewhat similar seafood menu across the street, there was a bit of stress. As it turned out, both restaurants have done very well.
What once was the men’s department of the old D.H. Holmes department store looks as if it had been bombed, patched up just enough to function, then painted and furnished as if by a street artist. Walls, floors, and tabletops are fancifully decorated by artist Luis Colmenares in a way that almost suggests a slick chain restaurant, but this is the one and only.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Seafood sampler (barbecue crab claws, shrimp & tasso fritters, Creole marinated shrimp)
Shrimp & jalapeno hush puppies
Alligator boudin balls, pear pepper jelly
Seafood charcuterie board
Raw oysters on the half shell
Alligator sausage & seafood gumbo
Ponchatoula strawberry salad, arugula, red onions, preserved lemon vinaigrette
Hickory-grilled fish (many varieties) or shrimp, with a choice of five sauces
Sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna, shiitake mushrooms baby green beans, soy citrus sauce
Grilled red snapper, roma tomatoes, tarragon-dijon vinaigrette
Des allemands catfish with shrimp Creole
Wood-grilled redfish & crawfish tails, tasso, wild mushroom Pontalba potatoes, lemon butter sauce
Blackened black drum & herb crusted shrimp, corn macque choux, bacon-raised mustard greens
Jumbo lump crab cake
Creole jambalaya,risotto style, shrimp, andouille, grilled chicken, roasted tomatoes
Barbecue shrimp & grits, andouille, sweet potato cheddar grits
Pan roasted half chicken
Double chocolate bread pudding
Apple crumble pie
White chocolate cheesecake
Bananas foster ice cream cake
Seasonal bread pudding
FOR BEST RESULTS
The Red Fish is very busy at lunchtime, with a mix of visitors and people who work downtown. It’s also a packed house during any big tourism event, with its gateway-to-Bourbon Street location. The middle of the afternoon is the best time in those crowded times.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
I’m pleased to report that an often-stated criticism I had about the shortness of the menu has been remedied. It’s just right now.
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 +1
- Consistency +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open some holidays
- Open all afternoon
- Oyster bar
- Good for children
- Reservations accepted