New Orleans crab cakes

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Crab cakes at Oceana Grill where the beer is cold and tasty. Photo by David Lansing.

One of the guys who works the front desk at my hotel asks me every day if I’ve been to Oceana Grill yet. “Best crab cakes in Naw-lens,” he says. Then he hands me a coupon good for 10% off. I must have a dozen of these coupons.

Here’s the thing about people who work at hotels recommending local restaurants: Either they really want you to get a taste of some local authentic food or they are shilling for the establishment. Since this guy hands me a 10% off coupon every time he sees me, I happen to think it’s probably the latter.

So yesterday I got on the computer and Goggled Oceana Grill and checked them out on TripAdvisor where there were something like 1,600 reviews. I love TripAdvisor. Mostly because the “reviews” always make me laugh.

“Well, I am super picky when it comes to crab cakes. All I have to say is that they are amazing. Yummy!” –exray, Cajun Country

“Food was better than sex!!!!” –LA Finest, LA

“The barbecued shrimp was drizzled with some kind of wine sauce that was divine!!! My 72 year old day definitely enjoyed himself!” –Tonya H, Memphis

Other than the fact that almost every review was from someone who absolutely adores exclamation points, two things sort of jumped out at me: One, many of the reviewers said they went there because their hotel concierge recommended it or gave them a discount coupon or both; two, every other reviewer talked about how they had this absolutely incredible server named Scott. Is it really possible that a thousand people would want to talk about their food server–whose name just happened to be Scott?

Obviously with this many people saying the food was better than sex and yummy and amazing (not to mention the 10% off coupon), I had to go.

Oceana Grill extends from the corner of Bourbon Street half way down Conti and must have something like 200 tables but when I checked in with the hostess, at a little after one in the afternoon, and told her I’d like a table for one, she frowned, pretended to look at her reservation sheet, and informed me that they didn’t have a table available. I looked around her shoulder at the half-empty dining room.


“Would you like to sit at the bar?” she suggested.

What the hell.

The bartender—a middle-aged woman with an 80s style puffy hairdo called me Sweetie and asked me what I’d like to drink. I told her I’d like a Sam Adams and the crab cakes.

“You got it, Sweetie.”

The crab cakes arrived before the beer, and the beer only took about three minutes. “Anything else, Sweetie?”

I told her I was good so she could go back to watching some sports talk show on the TV that was discussing whether we should be outraged or not over some NFL quarterback who sported tattoos on his arms.

The beer was fine. It was cold and tasted good. It was exactly what I had hoped it would be. I’m not sure what to tell you about the crab cakes. Maybe you could just look at the photo. Depending on your point of view, they are either yummy looking and better than sex or kind of disgusting. They had a hell of a lot of what the restaurant calls “crawfish and mushroom cream sauce” on top of them and my first reaction was, why do you need to ladle on a gallon of some gloppy sauce over crab cakes? I answered my own question when I took a bite: Because they taste bland and yucky.

After taking one more bite, just to make sure, I pushed the plate away and finished my beer. When I asked the bartender for my bill, she said, “Do you want to take them crab cakes with you?” I told her I did not.

Back at the hotel, the kid at the front desk looked up from his paper and asked me if I’d been to Oceana. I have, I told him.

“Aw right, then,” he said, smiling and offering up a high-five. “Now ya’all know!”

And I do.

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