I love the old Road Runner cartoons. The effortlessly superior Road Runner sporting nothing but the gifts that nature gave him continually bests the hapless Wile E. Coyote who must compensate for his shortcomings with technology. The company that Wile E. Coyote goes back to again and again despite the failure of it’s products is the fictional Acme Corporation of Fairfield, NJ. Rocket Shoes, Exploding Tennis Balls, Giant Rubber Bands and all other manner of technological wonders fail to catch the delicious meal that the hungry predator craves. If Wile E Coyote was in New Orleans he would certainly go to the Acme Oyster House.
The Acme Oyster house is located in the French Quarter in New Orleans on the corner of Stupid St. and Drunk Ave. It is a tourist trap meant to snare the weak and clueless and, with plenty of neon, willing media accomplices and a bit of schtick like an annual oyster eating contest. Lets face it, there aren’t a lot of Oyster Bars in Dubuque and the river oysters in Pittsburgh are not edible. Most of the people who travel to New Orleans and wind up in The Quarter are not looking for a good meal, although there are still some great eateries there. We arrived around 8:00 on a Saturday night and there was a significant line in front. A doorward came and took names for a list and at least 1 large party bailed but the 30 minute wait turned into 5 minutes for our party of 2. Our waitress was friendly and I ordered a dozen on the half shell and a cup of gumbo and Kim ordered the chargrilled oysters and the same cup of gumbo. Our order came way too quickly.
Raw oysters are one of the simplest pleasures and really have very few requirements. They need to be fresh, served nice and cold and properly shucked. Cooking oysters is far more challenging than eating them raw as they tend to turn into a seafood raisin if they are overcooked. The fact that I did not have to go the emergency room the next day attested to the freshness of the product at least but in a place as busy as the Acme it should have taken more than 4 minutes to get us our food. My oysters ranged in size from tiny to medium, were not particularly cold and each and every one of them had bits of shell and sand in them, some of them almost toothbreaker size. I ate them hoping that the next one would be clean of debris and colder than the previous one but each time, like Wile E Coyote, Acme failed me. Kim had the Charbroiled oysters which were pathetic shriveled little things swimming in garlic butter, which will make even rectum of wild boar palatable. Being a sloptrough for hundreds of drunks and less than educated tourists gives them the license to open dozens of oysters in advance and being a corporate entity the Acme corporation is not concerned about getting shuckers with an eye on quality, they just need to be fast. The seafood gumbo was also uninspired, light on actual seafood and the cup was mostly rice.
The next day we went to Cooter Browns, which is a neighborhood sports bar in the Carrollton section of town, far from the bovine masses on Bourbon Street. I ordered a dozen from the shucker himself and he had the trays lined up in front of him for 2 other orders. He politely asked me for 10 minutes or so and hand shucked them to order. The girl in front of me called his attention to the 7th oyster on her half dozen order and he told her it was a lagniappe because a few of them were small. When I got my order they were all impecably clean, nice and cold and delicious. Kim even broke her personal rule for eating the raw ones, having gotten a bad oyster years ago and swearing them off after a weekend of gastrointestinal terror, and slurped a few with me. Good oysters require nothing but a squeeze of lemon and these were perfect, plump and salty and I slurped them from the shell with glee. They were so good I went back for a second dozen and shot the breeze with the shucker as he shucked. Like the Road Runner he effortless popped open these treasures from the sea and if some errant shell or sandy schmutz got on the oyster he washed them off with a light spray of water. Having oysters expertly prepared by someone who takes pride in their work
As far as I am concerned the Acme Oyster House is the equivalent of the Acme Do-It-Yourself Tornado Kit, Acme Earthquake Pills or Acme Dehydrated Boulders. It is a disaster waiting to happen for a hungry culinary predator looking for a tasty treat. Since we both finished our meals I can’t give my worst rating but the Acme was really just weak.
Rating: Relatively Weak