Basin Street Blues has always been a mean favorite. Louis Armstrong and a song about old N’awlins. That same Basin Street flavor is being honored at Magazine’s own Basin Seafood & Spirits. Does it get any better than New Orleans’ unique history, jazz heritage and local seafood done right?
Indeed, New Orleanians KNOW seafood. We cook it like no other and our expectations are both highly attuned and more than a tad sophisticated. We are not a town that will ever suffer a frozen fish chain such as Red Lobster or Long John Silver’s. Whatever that is. Even the youngest of locals are connoisseurs who turn up their small noses at a frozen fish stick. We are a town that has long celebrated the catch, net, or trawl of the day in grand style.
Basin Seafood & Spirits partners Antonio Mata, Karla Keaton and Executive Chef Edgar Caro each share that strongly-held sentiment. The partners also own Baru Tapas Bar down the street. Owner/manager Mata is from the coastal region of El Salvador, Chef Caro from the coast of Columbia. Mata and Caro both learned to cook where the local catch inspired the evening’s meal. At Basin, it still does. The restaurant has a surprising local feel… and taste. Mata says the owners saw a need for a “local seafood restaurant with a twist” on Magazine. They decided to focus on fresh with New Orleans and South America in mind. The tables are usually full, and the idea has proven successful.
All Basin seafood is fresh from the Gulf and locally sourced. Chef Caro shops the local farmer’s market several times a week in search of inspiration. The signature entrée of Whole Grilled Fish changes with the tides, literally. The fish, Snapper, or Drum, or maybe something else, may weigh one pound, sometimes two – enough for two to dine. While the variety of fish may change, the Fish Special is always served with an Ear of Whole Grilled Corn, Grilled Green Onions, and Roasted Jalapeno Chimichurri Sauce.
Oysters. Raw, charbroiled, and fried, this week P & J, are the reason many flock to Basin Seafood. Raw Oysters on the half shell are 50 cents on Sundays and Mondays from 3-7 p.m. With a bit of planning on Mondays, this coincides with a stellar Happy Hour served from 3-7 p.m. Monday thru Friday. Happy Hour offers a special $4 menu featuring some of the daily Small Plates of Octopus Ceviche with Red Onion, Avocado, Jicama Slaw, Habanero, Satsumas, topped with Micro Greens. Blue Crab & Crawfish Beignets arrive with Remoulade Sauce. Cochon Sliders of Pulled Pork topped with Cole Slaw and Pickled Jalapenos, Boudin Balls with Burnt Onion Aioli, and Beer Battered Fish Tacos and Salsa top the specialties. Happy Hour also offers wine, beer, and cocktail specials.
In fact the “Spirit” part of “Basin” respects “local” at the bar. Only local drafts are on tap. Names such as Southern Prohibition pour nest to LA 31 – as in highway. The unique craft cocktails such as the copper-cupped NOLA Mule, a nod to the Moscow original, are concocted with locally bottled Crescent Vodka and finished with Lime and Gosling’s Ginger Beer. The Williams Pearwell is a fine cocktail of Belle Paire Pear Liqueur, St. Elder Elderflower, Rosemary, and Lemon. I’m currently enjoying the Orchard St. Night Train cocktail of Plantation Rum, Thyme Infused Simple Syrup, Crème de Mure, Bittermens’ Celery Schrub, and Lemon Zest.
My favorite dish, besides the Whole Grilled Fish, is the Charbroiled Oysters with Parmesan, Pecorino Butter, and Garlic Bread. Another is the Duck Ragu, locally sourced from Amite, Louisiana’s own Chappapeela Farms. This Duck Ragu is served over Pappardelle Pasta. The entrees change often and it may not be available long. Many are seasonal, such as this week’s Butternut Squash Risotto sautéed with Louisiana Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, Sage Brown Butter, and Parmigiano Reggiano. There is something wonderful about Butternut Squash and Sage Butter.
Lunch offers a selection of the same small plates on the Happy Hour listings, with the addition of Crawfish Mac n’ Cheese and a few more. The required fried seafood Poboy offerings of Fried Oyster, Shrimp, and Catfish are available. There is also a Grilled Yellowfin Tuna Brioche Sandwich with Brussel Sprout Slaw, Ginger Aioli, and Fries, a Shrimp Remoulade Sandwich, and a Battered Fish Taco plate with Pico and Jalapeno Salsa.
If Happy Hour is not in your repertoire and oysters aren’t your love, Sunday is a also good day to visit Basin. Brunch begins and ends with Basin’s bottomless Mimosas. From there, flavors run riot. The Fried Green Tomato Benedict is topped with a Glazed Andouille Relish. Pork & Hash is served with Cheddar Hash Browns, Red Onion & Bacon Jam, and Green Onion Gravy. Last weekend’s brunch selections included Shrimp & Grits with Sautéed Kale and Bacon, Steak & Egg Béarnaise and Cajun Fries, and Grand Marnier Caramel French Toast and Seasonal Louisiana Fruit.
All are excellent choices.
Basin Seafood & Spirits is located on the border of the Garden District cozily situated between Salu and Amici.
Basin Seafood & Spirits
3222 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70115
Kristine Froeba is a fourth generation Uptown girl whose varied background includes food and travel writing, celebrity ghost writing, public relations, social media management, fundraising, preservationist, reluctant tabloid hack, and litigation specialist. She describes herself as part foodie, part writer, part historian, historic renovation zealot, and full time dabbler.