The Blue Crab Restaurant & Oyster Bar
7900 Lakeshore Dr., New Orleans, 504-284-2898
THREE STARS (out of four)
The Blue Crab was one of two new restaurants, along with Brisbi’s, that opened over the summer along the New Orleans lakefront, adding a new chapter to an interrupted tradition for casual seafood with a waterfront view. The Blue Crab is the more traditional of the two, zeroing in most directly on classic old West End flavors.
The Blue Crab is found not on the lake precisely, but along a canal connecting the marinas here with the lake. Close enough – and the view is great. The restaurant is elevated on 20-foot pilings, putting the dining room and deck up above mast height (there’s an elevator for those not ready to climb the staircase). Inside, the room is bright, cavernous, usually noisy and done up with fishing camp décor. There’s a small bar area in the corner with its own oyster bar and a short deck. When the weather cooperates, they have the windows open and the old camp feel is complete. Under the restaurant, there’s now a second bar – shaped like the bow of a boat – that makes a fun perch while waiting for a table upstairs.
The staff are friendly and well organized. The only issue is when the restaurant gets very busy, and very loud, and it can become hard to communicate with them without shouting.
Most locals will know much of this menu by heart the first time they see it. It’s oyster and artichoke soup, crab and corn bisque, flaky onion rings and crab cakes. The oyster bar turns out a first-rate platter on the half shell, and there’s seasonal boiled seafood (shrimp and crabs right now, look for crawfish later in the year). There are a few gentle contemporary touches, like fried oysters in spicy/tangy Buffalo sauce and a generous bowl of crab claws smothered in creamy remoulade.
Some main courses are modeled directly after house specialties from old West End restaurants, like whole fried trout and the whole stuffed flounder, served fried or broiled. That flounder just erupts crabmeat stuffing and is laced with a lemony cream sauce for good measure. The menu ranges across grilled redfish over mixed greens, po-boys and fried seafood coated with a variety of batters. Sides are homey (baked macaroni, red beans and rice) and there are non-seafood choices like hamburger steak and pasta.
The dessert list plays it straight with bread pudding, crème brulee and spumoni, imported directly from Angelo Brocato’s.
There’s a full bar with a basic beer and wine selection and interesting specialty drinks. These are mostly tributes to drinks with lakefront connections, like the tiki drinks from the old Bali Hai restaurant.
Blue Crab is right there in the mid-range, serving most of its main courses in the teens. A couple should expect to spend about $60 on dinner.
This restaurant hits many of the hallmarks that New Orleanians of a certain age will remember longingly about the West End. The seafood is fresh and local, the basics are done well and the setting is often postcard perfect as the sun sinks over the lake. For the younger generation, it makes a faithful, if thoughtfully modernized, demonstration of what their parents and grandparents have been telling them about all this time.