by Ian McNulty
Things are looking up for dining along the New Orleans lakefront these days, though in the evenings patrons are mostly looking west toward the sunset over Lake Pontchartrain.
This week, the second of a pair of new seafood restaurants opened right on the water by the West End marinas. The Blue Crab Restaurant & Oyster Bar is elevated high on pilings with a deck jutting over the dock below. It’s right next door to Landry’s Seafood, a Houston-based regional chain, and just down the road from Brisbi's Lakefront Restaurant & Bar, another independent restaurant that made its debut about a month ago.
Together, they represent a revival of sorts for a part of the city that was a magnet for family dining for generations before Hurricane Katrina. Casual restaurants once lined the adjacent West End Park, with some built over the water itself, though their numbers were whittled down over the years and Katrina wiped out the few remaining examples.
The Blue Crab’s manager, Kent Burgess, is part of the family that ran one of the lakefront’s best-known and most-enduring restaurants, Sid-Mar’s, which operated for nearly 40 years just across the parish line in Bucktown until Katrina. He reopened Sid-Mar’s at a Metairie address in 2010, but it was never the same without the waterfront allure and this second Sid-Mar’s closed in 2012.
Burgess says the menu at the Blue Crab is based on the old Sid-Mar’s format, with po-boys, fried seafood platters and seasonal boiled seafood anchoring the options. There are also quite a few grilled seafood dishes, steaks, entrees like BBQ shrimp, red beans and rice and shrimp Creole and an inexpensive kid’s menu. There’s an oyster bar, though Burgess notes it’s not stocked just yet. The Blue Crab has a full bar.
Plans for the Blue Crab had been underway for more than two years, and during that time the concept saw a big change. The restaurant was originally to be called Duke’s on the Basin after chef Duke LoCicero of Café Giovanni. But last summer, LoCicero announced he was no longer involved with the project, citing disagreements with the other partners.
The name was then changed and Burgess was brought in. A dock and a store for boaters to pick up snacks, ice and drinks are still in the works for a second phase of the Blue Crab project, and Burgess says they should be complete in about six months.
For its opening week, the Blue Crab is serving dinner only tonight and Thursday, with lunch and dinner available Friday through Sunday. For its normal schedule, which begins next week, the restaurant will serve lunch and dinner everyday except Monday.
The Blue Crab Restaurant & Oyster Bar
7900 Lakeshore Dr., (504) 284-2898