Bar Hopping

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Gulf oysters taste great eaten out of hand on the back of a stranger's pickup tailgate during Mardi Gras.

They taste great shucked open on a fisherman's boat with a mountain of others nearby.

They even taste pretty good fished from a plastic tub of pre-shucked oysters bathing in their commingled pearly liquor.

But they might taste best of all when pulled from the ice, shucked against a diving weight and sent rattling across the marble slab of a New Orleans oyster bar.

There's a ritual, a relationship and a rewarding experience all in one. In a recent column, I took a look at a cluster of four oyster bars all within a few doors of each other around Iberville and Bourbon streets. The eating is good there, and my favorite of the four is Felix's if for no other reason than the ability to get a quick, quality dozen and an Abita and be on your way again in no time flat.

But the parameters of the column naturally excluded my favorite oyster bar in the city, the one at Pascal's Manale up on Napoleon Avenue. On the right night, with the right company, I can go through three or four dozen oysters there. The oysters are excellent, the ambiance is right and the shuckers have the gift of gab without coming off as shills. The place is cool.

That's all obviously a matter of personal preference. If you have a favorite oyster bar, what makes it top your list?

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