METAIRIE, La. — When you head out for a Lenten seafood meal, you might find yourself checking out the right side of the menu, where the prices are listed, as well as the left side, for your food choice.
If you haven't already noticed, prices are up and on some seafood, and are expected to go even higher.
So will that change any local traditions?
At Drago's restaurant in Metairie, the oysters are being shucked and thrown on the fire. And after the iconic dish is eaten, patrons will notice something different when the bill is served.
“The price of crab meat has skyrocketed at least. They’re $20 extra,” said one patron. When asked if that going to keep her from getting it as often, she replied. “Yes. Christmas is going to be different and Thanksgiving.”
Owner Tommy Cvitanovich says prices of seafood have skyrocketed.
- LIVE LOBSTER: was $8-10, now $18-19/pound
- CRAB: (if you can get) was $19-$20, now $35-$45
- A gallon of Oysters: was $50-60, now $80 and higher (expecting another price increase this week)
- SHRIMP: Price good
- CRAWFISH: Expect a great season
“Obviously fuels gone up. Obviously, labor's gone up. Obviously everything else, just like inflation, you know, for those oyster fisherman, all that's gone up,” said Tommy Cvitanovich, owner of Drago's Restaurant.
Now add to all of those reasons that it's Lent, and the demand for seafood in the New Orleans area always goes up.
A local family of 10 follows the Ash Wednesday tradition of going to mass in the morning to get ashes, and then out to get a seafood meal.
“We eat a lot of seafood, and yeah, it is very high. It's been a little bit of an issue actually,” the father, who was paying the bill, laughed.
Drago's even made some tough decisions.
“We did raise prices a little bit. We absorbed the cost a lot as well, but we decided to take the oysters, the rest of the oyster dishes, off our menu,” said Cvitanovich.
Oyster po'boys are off of the menu. With very low-profit margins, charging $30 is just too much, but it's only temporary. The opening of the spillway three years ago hurt the oyster crop, but later on this year, it's expected to be better.
“And you know what, that oyster, that oyster sandwich will be here in six months. It will be back on the menu,” said Cvitanovich.
But just like Friday fish fries and crawfish boils are part of the culture, so is seafood during Lent, no matter what the price.
“Yeah, it has gone up some.” When a woman getting take out was asked if prices will keep her from eating a lot of seafood during Lent, she answered, “No. I love seafood, so I'm going to continue to eat it.”
The restaurant says most people understand the price increase. Some will switch their orders to a lower price dish.