Dining at Drago’s Seafood Restaurant on the Louisiana Oyster Trail

by Nov 11, 2019Louisiana, Recipes

Dragos Seafood-Restaurant Shucking Oysters

Drago’s Seafood Restaurant has been the “Home of the Original Charbroiled Oysters” since the dish was launched in 1993 by owner Tommy Cvitanovich. Drago’s grills turn out more than 900 dozen charbroiled oysters a day. Drago’s has restaurants in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

We were following the Louisiana Oyster Trail in the town of Metairie just outside New Orleans. Our first stop of the journey in the Jefferson Parish was at the door of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant. Oysters were on the menu, and Michael was eagerly looking forward to sampling the promised charbroiled oyster dish. Therese, not a fan of oysters herself, was hoping for, well, something else.

The parking lot was packed on a drizzly night – a good sign – and as soon as the armed guard swung open the door (these oysters must really be popular) we were greeted with the smell of garlic and the sound of sizzling goodness emanating from a massive open grill in front of us. (Therese eyed the sizzling oysters suspiciously, although the photo opp was great.)

Drago and Klara Cvitanovich opened Drago’s Seafood Restaurant in 1969, but it wasn’t until their son Tommy created what would become the signature dish of the restaurant, the charbroiled oyster, that the place (“Home of the Charbroiled Oyster”) was transformed into a must-dine destination along the Jefferson Parish’s Louisiana Oyster Trail. Currently there are 20 participating restaurants.

The centerpiece of the Metairie restaurant, the original Drago’s establishment, is the flaming grill. This place is seriously like a massive palace celebrating all things oyster. On one side, two men were busily shucking fresh Louisiana oysters, placing them 12 to a tray (At full speed, each can shuck a couple hundred in an hour). Each tray is then delivered to the grilling station and the chef then sizzles them on the half-shell over an open flame, ladling a mixture of garlic, butter and herbs over them as they cook. A sprinkling of Parmesan and Romano cheese tops off the dish as the dozen oysters are plated, and two French rolls are added. Plate after plate of the charbroiled oyster dish headed out into the restaurant as we stood enjoying the show.

Dragos Seafood Oysters Grill - home of the charbroiled oyster

It wasn’t long before we were seated in the crowded restaurant, which in multiple rooms can seat 500. This is not fine dining by any stretch of the imagination. The atmosphere and seating are more along the lines of what you would expect of a family-oriented restaurant – open, bright, clean with an emphasis on great service and good food, plenty of it, and less on décor of any sort.

We were joined at our table by none other than Tommy Cvitanovich himself. Yes, we were being hosted as media, but Tommy appearing at tables at his Metairie restaurant is nothing out of the ordinary. He spends most of his time at this restaurant of his four (a fifth coming in Baton Rouge by late 2019) and is very hands-on, checking on tables, sitting down with guests to chat (many are regulars), and personally attending to a birthday song here and there. He believes in community and offers, for example, an inexpensive prom menu that is a flat teen-ager-appropriate price, including tax, tip and beverage, thus also grooming a new generation of clientele. Smart guy!

As soon as we took our seats, the food began appearing, with Tommy orchestrating the delivery so we could taste all of his finest and newest. Of course, the first delivery was charbroiled oysters. Therese politely explained she had a “bad oyster experience” many years ago and isn’t a real fan but was willing to try. Tommy nodded, smiled, and said that was OK (we think he knew she’d change her mind).

To be honest, Michael was hoping for raw oysters on the half shell, but as Tommy explained, there was an oyster shortage due to opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway because of so much recent rain. That spillway pours fresh water into the bayou and as a result, the water salinity drops, and oysters begin to die. The good news is Drago’s Seafood Restaurant serves so many oysters it is able to source directly from the fishermen. Mull this factoid: He said between this restaurant and the one in New Orleans at the Hilton Riverside, Drago’s serves 3 million oysters a year. No wonder the fishermen keep him top o’ mind, assuring a supply for this signature dish. Each plate comes with several pieces of French bread for dipping into the garlic butter sauce.

Dragos Charbroiled Oysters on the Louisiana Oyster Trail

Even Therese was surprised how much she loved the flavor of Drago’s original charbroiled oyster dish. They are not slimy, salt or fishy like raw ones can be (plentiful garlic and butter on top doesn’t hurt). It did not take long for a dozen of these mouth-watering oysters to disappear – Michael lapped them up, and Therese did manage three in fact. (Want a recipe for charbroiled oysters? Check out our grilled oyster recipe courtesy of Visit Jefferson Parish’s Louisiana Oyster Trail cookbook.)

Next up were the Alligator Tacos, consisting of blackened alligator tail meat, arugula, pico de gallo and Cajun aioli served in a soft shell. Can we say YUM! We both absolutely loved this dish!

Dragos Seafood Restaurant Alligator Tacos

More delectable plates appeared on our table, including the new-on-the-menu Dr. Pepper Gator Rice Bowl (yes, this is a dish made with alligator meat sautéed in a Louisiana-Style Dr. Pepper – the soda, you read that right — sauce and served over rice) and the Shrimp ‘N’ Grits with Tasso (jumbo gulf shrimp and tasso smoked meat in a spicy butter cream sauce served with grits).

Shrimp N Grits At Drago's

Of course, there was plenty of deep-fried goodies too – we were in Louisiana, for goodness sake – including alligator, which we were coming to like quite a bit, and Fleur De Lis Shrimp – fried shrimp with peanuts and a spicy red pepper aioli. Tommy does not shy away from a little spicy zip in dishes. Tommy sells traditional Southern fare but also seeks to “drago-ize” something, thus the peanuts and roasted red pepper on this one.

Dragos Seafood Restaurant Grilled Corn And Shrimp

We literally could not eat another bite, but Tommy wouldn’t hear of us stopping now. Not until we had sampled the Drago’s Seafood Restaurant’s new dessert, the I-Scream Fireball. What is an I-Scream Fireball you ask? Get this: a thick slice of ice cream pie speckled with chocolate chunks and a very thick graham cracker crust. Sprinkle spicy caramelized peanuts over it, then pour a generous shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey over the top. That little spicy after-tingle is, he calls and we heartily agree, “magic in your mouth.” Oh, my was it ever good!

Dragos Michael With Tommy Iscream Dessert

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  1. Shutterbug Sage

    We LOVE seafood, but live in the most landlocked state in the union (Kansas). Everything at Dragos looks amazing! My daughter and I were scheduled to visit New Orleans in December, but we’ve had to postpone our trip. Pinning this so we can check it out when we get to visit!

  2. Erica

    The charbroiled oysters look spectacular… and those tacos look amazing! I´m mainly vegetarian and only sneak a peak of fish a couple of times a year, but this looks like it would be a great place for a little cheat!

  3. Wendy

    Wow, sounds like a great place to eat. My husband would love the oysters. Tommy sounds like a wonderful host I love the fact that he makes a menu specially for prom so it wont confuse teenagers who might not be used to ordering and tipping.

  4. Delphine

    This restaurant looks good and I must admit I know nothing about cajun cuisine… but alligator? I’ve tried crocodile meat in the Northern Territory of Australia and I found it a bit average, tasted a bit like chicken… But I know my husband would try it for sure!

    • HI Travel Tales

      I’ve tasted alligator in various forms and dishes and find as long as it is properly prepared and seasoned it is quite delicious. Now, the best alligator meat I have had is farm raised. Wild caught can be a bit gamey. At Drago’s, the alligator tacos are absolutely to die for.

  5. samantha hint

    Wow I’ve never eaten oysters and never knew there were so many different options! This is a great place for those who love osyters and want to taste some unique variations!

    • HI Travel Tales

      Drago’s is THE place to go for charbroiled oysters, that is for certain.

  6. Em Ma

    As someone who really dislikes oysters, I honestly had no idea that there could be so many variations on one menu. The alligator meals sounded interesting… although I don’t think I’m game enough to try them!

    • HI Travel Tales

      Therese doesn’t like oysters either, but she found the charbroiled oysters quite tasty. You should give them a try before completely writing off oysters all together. And alligator tacos … I think you would be brave enough. They are so tasty.

  7. Ania James

    my hubby would give his arm and leg for good oysters, When we will be Louisiana we will visit this place for sure

    • HI Travel Tales

      Your hubby will not be disappointed with Drago’s to be sure.

  8. The Holidaymaker | Renee

    Sounds like you had quite the feast! I can’t believe it sits 500 people! I am sorry I can’t say I have had mussels before, and have been vegetarian for over 10 + years, but you had me at the smell of garlic waffling through as you entered the restaurant. I can imagine it is a popular place.

    • HI Travel Tales

      And even if you were not a veg, you still would not have mussels at Drago’s as they are all about oysters. 🤪

  9. Trimm Travels ✈️

    I am with Therese on this one. I’m not a fan of oysters. Never had a bad experience, I just don’t care for them. But I would try these! It’s really cool that they have a prom teenager-approved menu. I’ve never heard of that before and that Tommy comes and visits all of his tables. That’s rare but really cool. That ice cream pie, wow! I would absolutely have to try that and the Dr Pepper Gator Rice Bowl!

    • HI Travel Tales

      I absolutely LOVED the Dr Pepper Gator Rice Bowl!!! But my fav dish of the night was the gator tacos.

  10. Patricia - Ze Wandering Frogs

    We’ve been to Metairie over 15 years ago and might have eaten at Drago! I don’t like raw oysters but cooked with a good dose of hearty sauce, count me in! Love Cajun food in general, starting with a spicy jambalaya. That’s an impressive volume of oysters they serve every year, definitely an important partner for the local fishing industry.

    • HI Travel Tales

      I am a full-on oyster lover, but can attest from others who were at the table and not raw oyster fans that the charbroiled oysters were delicious.

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