Charlie’s seafood: the dirty boy

 James Beard award-winning chef  Frank Brigtsen took over Charlie’s Seafood (aka Charles Seafood, as per the neon sign on the facade, 8311 Jefferson Highway, Harahan, LA, 504.737.3700) in 2009, and the 59-year-old place is kicking out mighty tasty fare, with a few interesting non-seafood twists.  Witness the savory shrimp calas, an update on the traditional sweet calas idea; the dark-brown orbs taste like a ricely cousin of cajun shrimp boulettes (ground shrimp and grated potato fritters).

A bar runs down one wall of the compact front dining room, whose walls sport Mardi-gras-bead, Saints-themed wall art.  The wait staff runs toward local high school kids, who are earnest, friendly, and accomodating.  In short, it’s the sort of locals’ place everyone in south Louisiana loves, complete with Barq’s root beer in glass longneck bottles accompanied by 4-ounce glasses, in case diners don’t want to drink out of the bottle.  (If only a basket of saltines, melba toast, and butter pats graced each table…or am I the only person who thinks that neighborhood restaurants should still pass out gratis butter & crackers?)

The least photogenic item on the menu turned out to be my favorite:  the Dirty Boy.  A deceptively diminutive sandwich, it packs a rich, meaty wallop.  All of the “dirty” components of dirty rice–sauteed ground beef, ground chicken livers, onions, garlic, etc.–are stuffed into a pistolette roll.  Aside from needing a hit of hot sauce, it was damn near perfect, as were the made-in-house meat pies and the fried oysters atop the Caesar salad.  Best of all, Charlie’s uses Louisiana seafood, right down to the last shrimp, oyster, catfish fillet, and softshell crab.

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4 thoughts on “Charlie’s seafood: the dirty boy

  1. I have had dreams about the Dirty Boy. Good ones. I have also very much enjoyed the various fried seafoods there, and the shrimp etouffee was spectacular. I even love the potato salad and the tarter sauce. The only thing I haven’t loved is the un-fried seafood platter, and I think that was only because the fried seafood is so perfect that it seems a shame not to order it. If a house next to Charlie’s came up for sale, I’d buy it.

    • I didn’t even mention the shrimp bisque, a dark brown brew full of file & spice. Though it’s a good little spot, I can’t say that it makes me want to move to Harahan!

  2. Just returned. I was NOT impressed. I had their fried seafood platter. The shrimp was overcooked, the oysters and catfish were mushy. The coleslaw was wilty (old). With all the hoopla I heard about this on Tom Fitzmorris’ radio program I had to try it out. It was not good. I couldn’t help thinking that this is what you get when you have an absentee owner/chef. Frank’s bread and butter is really at his primary restaurant and this is is simply a diversion. I can’t see giving them a second chance when there are other restaurants that I can depend on. Grade: D-

    • Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. My Charlies’ visits have all been at lunchtime. The calas, gumbo, meat pies, and “dirty boy” have never let me down. Also, I wouldn’t judge any restaurant by its performance on a Saturday night during JazzFest.

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