Local restaurants say goodbye to a southern favorite

Anum Siddiqui

Fried oysters are a favorite at Carrollton Market in uptown, But soon will disappear from the menu. This year’s oyster season in New Orleans has become non-existent due to the amount of freshwater in the Mississippi River, causing oysters to die.

“Our signature dish ‘Oyster Goodenough’ is the only item that has been on the menu since day one. I built my brand around it,” said chef and owner at Creole Market Jason Goodenough. “But because of the situation in the Gulf of Mexico and massive price and sustainability, we decided to take the dish off the menu.”

Heavy rain during the summer led to high water levels in the Mississippi River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway twice, to prevent flooding in the river reaching the city. By July, the spillway was open for over 100 days. The fresh water pouring into the Mississippi River caused salinity levels to become unstable for oysters to grow.

“In theory, the oysters should bounce back in a couple years. But the situation with climate change, this could be an annual situation, who knows could be permanent,” said Goodenough.

Local seafood distributor Inland Seafood is receiving around 30 to 50 sacks of oysters from oystermen about every other week. This amount of oysters only serves one or two restaurants. Now, the wholesale distributor is having to pick and choose which restaurants to give the oysters to.

“It’s not fun for us. We try to spread them around, try to get some to someone different each time,” said Inland Seafood general manager Nolan Coutrue.

Restaurants have the option to purchase oysters out of state but that can become pricey. Goodenough says oysters out of state just don’t have the same value as gulf oysters.

“Price, quality, size, they tend to be much smaller. I just don’t really want Texas oysters,” said Goodenough.

Restaurants are having to make sacrifices by pulling popular oyster dishes off their menu.

“I don’t feel comfortable charging 30 or 40 dollars for a four fried oyster appetizer, so we’re just taking it off the menu,” said Goodenough.

Other well-known oyster houses like Drago’s Seafood Restaurant have taken raw oysters off their menu due to the shortage.