According to Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, oyster season typically begins on the first Wednesday following Labor Day and ends on April 30. But for those of us who reside in New Orleans and are too lazy to buy a calendar, there’s a far easier way to know the mollusk is ready for consumption: When Casamento’s opens.
Yes, the menu is made up of items other than oysters, but the shellfish is so vital to the restaurant that Casamento’s chooses to close for the summer, when oyster season typically ends. While they’re open, though, they’re many people’s go-to for raw oysters. This means that getting to the restaurant early, on any night, is a must. Reservations are not accepted, and just because it’s a Tuesday doesn’t mean you’re going to get a seat that easily. We arrived on a Saturday at 6 pm and still had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. By 7, that line was out the door.
Situated in what must have been an old shotgun house, the restaurant’s décor strikes a balance between “old higher-end joint” and “roadside seafood shack.” You get the feeling that the restaurant’s owners were far more focused on the food than the ambiance, and, to be fair, they’re right to have done that. If you come to a place like Casamento’s looking for a stunning ambiance, you’re probably the kind of person that goes to an art museum and complains about the coffee they serve in the cafe. You’re missing the point.
When it comes to the food, Brooke and I found ourselves split in our opinions. This didn’t surprise us; I’m not a huge fan of oysters, particularly raw, while Brooke loves them. To that end, we’ll be sharing our own opinions on each dish.
We began our meal with a dozen raw oysters and a half dozen chargrilled.
Joey: While the chargrilled oysters weren’t bad, I found them to be half-assed. I totally understand that it would take a pretty large amount of work to mince all of the garlic needed to top them every night, but this might be one of those cases where, for the good of the food, you’ve just got to do that work. The pre-minced garlic that lay atop these oysters was nearly devoid of any flavor, no doubt because it was likely preserved in olive oil, just like it is at the store. Additionally, I don’t have any issue with a lot of butter in my food, but in this instance, it only served to further drown out the garlic. The same can be said of the cheese, which didn’t add, well, anything to this dish.
The bread on top was also pretty pointless, and it clearly wasn’t homemade. If the garlic-butter puddles left at the bottom of each oyster shell had tasted like anything other than just butter, I would’ve enjoyed dipping them.
Brooke: It was buttery/garlicky goodness.
Joey: Now, I’ll be completely honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of oysters, particularly raw. It’s not that I’m averse to eating raw fish, but I find the texture to be far too slimy. To that end, I’ll give the floor to Brooke in order to provide the opinion of someone who, you know, actually likes the food this restaurant is known for.
Brooke: The oysters were smooth, fresh & plentiful. Also, you can even make your own cocktail sauce at your table. Winner!
Next up were our entrees. Brooke ordered the legendary oyster loaf, while I, not being an oyster fan, went for the shrimp loaf. We also split an order of the chargrilled fries, which are the normal french fries topped with the chargrilled oyster topping.
Joey: It almost doesn’t feel fair to review this dish. Casamento’s is a restaurant known for oysters, so it feels like bullying to say that their shrimp sandwich isn’t all that. But, it’s on the menu, which means they’re accountable for it. I’ll give them the compliment sandwich (pun absolutely intended): I loved that the loaves of bread were thick enough to retain their crispiness, even when ketchup was added to the equation. I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that the shrimp were hardly seasoned at all, but they were cooked quite well and had a great texture. All in all, you could do worse when it comes to shrimp (see: Bubba Gump,) but this sandwich just isn’t that great.
Brooke: A half order of Casamento’s oyster loaf is plenty filling for one person, although I’d recommend ordering the full loaf if you plan on sharing. The oyster loaf is a fun spin on a traditional poboy, but instead of using traditional French bread, Casamento’s uses two pieces of Bunny Bread Texas toast, which, like Joey said about his shrimp loaf, goes a long way in not getting soggy. With the over-abundance of oysters falling out of your sandwich – and melting in your mouth – you can’t beat the price of $8.50 for this simple sandwich.
We’d say that if there’s one dish not requiring separate opinions, it’s the chargrilled fries. While Joey found the garlic, butter and cheese didn’t work on the oysters, it made up for itself on the fries, which are cut and cooked fresh in-house. The cheese and garlic actually stood apart this time, lending a lot of great flavor to the potatoes. What I love about this dish is that it’s aware of exactly what it is: a tasty, down-home slop of carbs, butter, and cheese. Nothing says “USA” quite like this dish.
At the end of the day, this is a food blog made by two people. We’re going to disagree at some points, and this just happens to be one of them. Joey won’t be itching to return to Casamento’s by the time oyster season rolls around later this year, but it’ll be near the top of Brooke’s list of places to go come September.
Joey: My issue with Casamento’s is that everything I order there is done better elsewhere. I can’t complain about their signature items, the oysters, because I hardly ate them, and I’m probably not going to love any oyster I eat, ever. Just because of that fact, it’s not a place I’ll be dying to visit.
Brooke: If you’re a big fan of oysters, put this place on your list. Its classic oyster loaf can be compared to a po-boy. It’s cheap and deliciously simple.
Service: Fair, and a separate opinion isn’t required here. Our waitress was adequate at best, dismissive at worst. Communication wasn’t her gift, as she simply took our orders, got our drinks, and moved along. She did her job well enough, but she didn’t go above and beyond.
Atmosphere: Old-school with a hint of grime. The place looks like it hasn’t been updated since it opened & that just provides more of the New Orleans charm.
Joey: The simple fact is I’m not the target market for this restaurant, just like a guy who hates sports isn’t going to enjoy going to a Saints game. Casamento’s just isn’t my bag, and I don’t think it ever will be.
Brooke: Its premise is simple: oysters. If you’re an oyster fan–Casamento’s should for sure be on your list.
Note: Casamento’s is owned by C.J. and Linda Gerdes, whose daughter, Nicole, was recently injured in a serious car wreck. The family is accepting donations to assist with her medical bills, which are considerable. You can visit Casamento’s website by clicking our link above to learn more about donating to help the Gerdes family.