Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Drago's: Is It Worth It?

Shrimp and grits at Drago's

Until a meal at Drago's last week, I never had any reason to feud with grits. Grits are a staple of southern cooking, an exclamation point on meals from Charleston to Texas. When done correctly, the grits take on an amorphous shape, able to float between liquid and solid form, soaking up juices or just a receptacle for an oozing pat of butter. Great grits, to paraphrase Vinny Gambini are "magic grits."

The grits at Drago's were a disaster. With the texture of wet sand, they mounded above the shrimp in Drago's take on the southern dish sweeping the nation faster than kudzu. We were eating with my mom, but luckily she put her motherly instincts aside and didn't force me to finish my plate. Normally, you could throw away the starch component of a dish. When grits are one of the two main components of a dish and they arrive dry and unappetizing, someone in the kitchen has never had a proper bowl of girts. The shrimp surrounding the gritsaster benefited from being close to tasso, but otherwise the dish lacked any punch.

Before we go on, let me say something nice lest I not be able to say anything at all. The fleur de lis shrimp, plump fried shrimp coated in a fiery sauce with chopped peanuts, were immensely enjoyable. Perhaps a plate of those with a beer would be a good way to watch a ballgame. But you don't come to Drago's for fleur de lis shrimp or shrimp and grits, you come here for the chargrilled oysters. A dish which Drago's is credited with inventing. But much like bbq shrimp at Manale's, Drago's sure hasn't perfected their greatest hit.

Below the crust of garlic butter and parmesan, there lies an oyster which depending on the time of year will either be flavorful or not. At this time of year, the latter is more likely.* Without the salinity of a plump oyster, the topping is better placed on bread than a milky oyster. The way in which the oysters are opened is perhaps a bit too rough resulting in shell fragments worthy of awarding the oyster a Purple Heart.

A plank of drum arrived bland despite being covered in all manners of things. Lindsay described the crabmeat and shrimp dressing which sat next to it as "interesting."  This was an improvement upon a plate of oysters en brochette served with a sweetened Jack Daniels sauce that managed to disprove the twin theories of southern cooking that bacon and bourbon make everything taste better. There were salads of basic salad bar quantity. These were included in the price of the entrees, which depending on your satisfaction with your meal are either very high or just high. Everybody has an off night or maybe it still holds true that eating oysters in summer is a bad idea.

I'll end on another good note. The beer is very cold and the service couldn't be nicer.

Drago's: Is It Worth It? Nope.
Fat City and Downtown Locations

*Tangent: The idea that anyone would host an Oyster Festival in New Orleans in June is a goddamn disgrace. Oysters couldn't be less appetizing than right now through the end of a summer. There is a reason why Casamento's is closed. Please move this festival to a cold weather month.


Robert said...

I love the chargrilled oysters there, but after slogging through too many boring entrees, I just don't touch anything else on the menu. In fact, I went there for oysters this weekend, and then went to "eat" elsewhere later.
I'm not a fan of Yelp but I found it interesting that there's a sort of consensus on this same point there as well.

Tangent: I think your tangent deserves its own post.

Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

Whoa! Ballllayum!
I had my first dozen Drago's charbroiled oysters last year at Wed at the Square, they were scrumptious! I mean, really tasty.
Thus and hence, I endeavored to visit Drago's shortly thereafter, and alas had exactly the experience you described.
The difference was stunning.
The only thing I can think of is that they were shucking dem babies right there in at the square and, having done that for a living, I enjoyed the shucker's style. In short, maybe they were cleaner out in front of everyone etc. Also, the oysters were in a better season back then.

Thanks y'all!

Double Chin said...

Excellent purple heart analogy. Very clever.

Nola said...

We went to Drago's abt a year ago and it was GROSS AND EXPENSIVE. I totally don't get how they stay in business, other than unsuspecting tourists see it on some show and think it's a MUST. Sure, they have good char-grilled oysters. And so do many other places that have far better other dishes. And for the value, it's just a no-brainer.

NMissC said...

The picture of those grits is all I need to know about them. Those are grits?

I would have guessed badly ruined mashed potatoes in a greasy spoon.

Jody said...

I'm really surprised by this post. I've consistently found Drago's (Fat City) to be one of my favorite places in the city. The charbroiled oysters are easily the best I've had (with second place going to Vera's in Slidell) and everything I've ordered there has been nothing short of spectacular. The service has never been stellar, but they've always made up for it with good food. I've brought relatives from all over the country here and other restaurants in the GNO for the past decade and the consensus on repeat visits is always "let's go to Drago's". Unless something has gone seriously wrong in the last year since I've been, I'd say give them another try.

Jerry said...

Sit at the bar and watch the grilled oysters cook. You will not be tempted for anything else. I go to Dragos for grilled oysters...that's it!