In a city of sensual pleasures, few are more satisfying than the Acme Oyster House. Yes, you have to stand in line, but that’s part of the mystique, and your inevitable wait on the sidewalk of Bourbon Street serves to sharpen your appetite and hone your sense of anticipation.
Acme opened in 1910, and probably hasn’t changed much since. The floors are wooden, the tablecloths are plastic, and the noise level is formidable. The front room consists of tables sandwiched between a long bar on one side and an open kitchen on the other; the larger room in the back offers a more peaceful ambience, but only slightly. At any hour of the day or night, the place is packed, and the staff is understandably cheerful as a result.
To start with, you obviously come here for oysters: briny and oceanic, freshly shucked and magnificent. You can also have them char-grilled, a Nawlins specialty. The bivalves are opened, slathered with garlic and butter, topped with a thin coating of cheese, and baked under the broiler—a nice option for those wary of eating raw shellfish.
After that, there are the local classics: gumbo and jambalaya, red beans and rice, seafood etoufée. Beyond those, anything that isn’t raw is fried, so forget about cholesterol. There isn’t a salad in the place. The centerpiece of the lunch menu is the selection of Po’Boys, the traditional Louisiana sub served on a light, fluffy roll, dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise. The seafood options include shrimp, oysters, fish, crawfish tails and soft shell crabs. On the meat side, there’s ham, turkey, hot sausage and hamburger, grilled marinated chicken, and the killer—the “10 Napkin Roast Beef Po’Boy.” This consists of slow-cooked chuck roast, propelled into another dimension by Tabasco-infused mayo. No one would likely confuse Acme with a wine destination, but the selection is decent; the Joel Gott Unoaked Chardonnay seemed to pair well with everything on the menu.
And the service? Consider this: our waitress took the order for our party of ten without writing anything down, then repeated it back to us flawlessly. Try doing that on your best day.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press/Globe Pequot); his second book, Moonshine Nation, will be released in late spring 2014. For more information, go to amazon.com