Deanie’s Seafood, New Orleans/Metairie, La.

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For a foodie like me, New Orleans is a dream of a city. There are just so many great options in the Crescent City that even a week isn’t long enough to hit all of them, and you’re really only limited by your wallet and your schedule. When you have fried chicken, beignets, desserts, po boys and others available, almost all within walking distance, you’re really in a great spot for food.

But the real jewel of the Gulf of Mexico is the seafood, and for good reason. When you’re located right on the ocean, that means you’ve got access to fresh seafood whenever you want it, without it losing any of its flavor in a lengthy journey to the market. As we’ve established many times, the closer something comes from, the better it’s going to be. Harvesting fish and seafood is such a big deal in the Gulf Coast that I once argued with another journalist after the BP oil spill that BP’s use of “seafood being impacted” to describe the disaster was much worse than “fish being killed”, and they should fire their PR guy as a result. The guy tried to claim that “fish being killed” was stronger language and more specific than “seafood being impacted”, but I’m not buying it. Hey, fish die all the time. That’s nature. That doesn’t bother me. Seafood being impacted says it’s neither delicious nor safe to eat, and that’s a real tragedy.

Fortunately, those days in New Orleans are gone, and that means the city can get back to doing yet another one of the things it does best: providing great seafood. The days of cheap seafood haven’t returned, but the days of quality seafood have, and one of the best places to get it is Deanie’s Seafood, located in both the historic French Quarter and the small fishing village of Bucktown. Deanie’s has been a New Orleans seafood institution for the past five decades, and when you last for that many years in a foodie haven like the Crescent City, that means you have to be doing something right.

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With Deanie’s, the presentation is a large part of what they’ve done well, and it starts from the very beginning when the server sets out a hot basket of…potatoes. Yes, instead of the traditional starter of bread, Deanie’s opts to provide its guests with several baked redskin potatoes as a welcome appetizer. It’s something I’ve never seen anywhere else, and it’s a very welcome change, especially because their potatoes are served piping hot and are absolutely perfect inside. Even better, redskin potatoes just seem to have a sharper taste to me than russets do, which is why they work so well in restaurants, in my opinion.

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Plus, they’ve got ample amounts of butter to make sure everything’s the way you like it. Forget bread, give me a hot potato any day. I’m used to paying for quality potatoes, so when I can get a free one, that’s a pretty awesome thing. Amy, who loves potatoes even more than I do and will be in heaven food-wise whenever we visit Idaho, was also quite happy with Deanie’s way of starting off a meal.

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Once the starch is out of the way, it’s time to get started on what you really came here for, which is the seafood. This being New Orleans, there are few better ways to start than with oysters. Oysters aren’t the thing that Deanie’s is most famous for, but they know how to do them right here, grilling and breading them perfectly. These aren’t going to be quite the variety of oyster flavors that exist elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, but that’s not a bad thing at all.

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Variety and simplicity each have their place, and in this case, breaded and grilled is perfect. The texture works great, the oysters have the right flavor, and it’s clear that they know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to the sea. A little lemon juice is a nice addition here for some extra flavor. We absolutely loved these, proving yet again that the best way to ensure a great culinary experience is to spend as little time as possible actually getting the ingredients to their destination.

Oysters, however, are just the tip of the iceberg for the seafood glory here. If you want something truly unique, the best way to get it is to go with the barbecued shrimp, which is served with the head on and sauteed in Creole seasonings. From what I’ve seen of them, they look outstanding. They’re also a real mess, though, so if you’re out to a nice dinner, they’re not really recommended because you’re going to have a hard time keeping your shirt from getting a stain. Deanie’s has thought of that, though, as they offer a barbecued shrimp pasta, where they peel off the heads for you after the shrimp gets treated with the Creole seasonings.

As tempting as that idea was, however, I wanted to see what a place like Deanie’s could do with fish. There really isn’t much that’s come out of the ocean that I don’t enjoy (rockfish is the only fish I’ve ever had that I didn’t love, it was just a disaster the one time I tried it), and as far as seafood goes, a well-prepared stuffed flounder is among my favorites. I love flounder, and when I’m in the mood for fish, it’s pretty rare for me to choose anything else over it. With the eastern part of the country being the most likely place to find flounder and New Orleans seated right on the Gulf of Mexico, I knew I couldn’t leave the Crescent City without enjoying some flounder.

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As I expected, Deanie’s knows what it’s doing with one of my favorite fish. The crabmeat stuffing is pretty incredible, flavorful from first bite to last and tasting incredibly fresh. The hot plate makes sure that the flounder comes out sizzling, and the fish is cooked perfectly and flavored exactly the way it should be. As any seafood lover knows, fish is very tricky to get right and disastrous to get wrong, and luckily, Deanie’s is experienced enough to know how to walk that line perfectly. The buttery flavor with the crab meat is just amazing, and I really wished I had more.

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Deanie’s also throws on a salad with the flounder, and as far as house salads go, it’s a pretty good one. It’s not quite the Drover’s salad bar, but it’s a pretty solid accompaniment. However, I wasn’t a big fan of the vegetables, which were the only real flaw here. The vegetables just seemed bland and not quite cooked correctly, seeming to be more of an afterthought to the stars of the meal. I opted for the vegetables over potato after starting with the redskin spuds, and I really wish I hadn’t made that decision. I prefer not eating the same thing twice in the same day, let alone at the same meal, but I do make exceptions when necessary. Next time, I plan on making this an exception and going potato again.

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Amy wanted to taste as much of the Gulf of Mexico as possible, opting for the Combo Dinner, which provides battered and fried shrimp, catfish and oysters, along with French fries. The catfish is perfect, exactly what you would expect to find in the Deep South. The breading is excellent and works with the seafood. As I said after experiencing Willie Mae’s amazing breading, a good breading has to provide flavor while not overwhelming the meat or vegetable, and this breading comes through. Fried catfish and shrimp with the proper breading are as good as it gets, and this certainly comes through.

With as many restaurants as New Orleans has, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of restaurants and cuisines available, but no trip to the Big Easy would be complete without a taste of seafood. Whatever you love about the ocean, there’s a good chance you’ll find it done and done right at Deanie’s. After all, you don’t stay open for five decades in foodie heaven without knowing exactly what you’re doing with the region’s signature food.

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Recap

Time to go: Lunch or dinner. Keep in mind, though, Deanie’s Bucktown location is not open on Mondays. In the French Quarter, it’s seven days a week.

Wait during my visit: Substantial. The French Quarter is always packed, and this was no exception. We waited about 20 to 30 minutes for a table to come open.

Location: Deanie’s is at 841 Iberville Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and its Bucktown location is at 1713 Lake Avenue in Metairie, La.

Cost: Good seafood isn’t cheap anywhere anymore. Expect to pay about $20 to $25 per entree, which isn’t at all bad given the quality of the seafood you’re enjoying.

Parking: Why bother? The first rule about driving in the French Quarter: don’t. All you need to do is walk to Canal Street and take the streetcar (despite my issues with the streetcar system, you can count on the Canal Street car) north to Dauphine Street, go one block down Dauphine into the Quarter and you’re there. If you’re in Bucktown, you’ll have to drive, so parking likely isn’t an issue.

Seating arrangement: Tables, chairs and booths

Website: Deanie’s

Specialty items: Fresh seafood

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Deanie's Seafood on Urbanspoon

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About nighthawk2005

A hungry guy in the land of the Hawkeye discovers America's best restaurants for himself.

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  1. Hominy Grill, Charleston, S.C. | Dan vs. Food - October 14, 2017

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