We were in Casemento’s out on Magazine Street on a warm spring evening.  It was a week night and there was that feeling that it was time for some oysters on the shell.  We found a side table on the wall in front where we could see this guy who looked just like Judd Hirsch behind the counter shucking out dozens of Gulf oysters by the sack.

In business since 1919 in uptown New Orleans, Casamento’s has been an enduring favorite of people who know that real New Orleans dining is out in the neighborhoods.  You won’t break the bank there and these days you will bookmark the address on your GPS.  But that’s just for show.  You won’t forget how to get there.

Just after we got settled at our table, our waiter came over and asked us if we wanted something to drink. I looked up then realized that wouldn’t be necessary.  I leveled my gaze into dark eyes deeply set in a wrinkled round face the color of polished mahogany with a cap of close cropped silver hair.  She was a fireplug of a woman who couldn’t have been much more than four and a half feet and had a voice like the sound of a klaxon.

We ordered our Dixies and when she brought them over, she asked us, in that unmistakable drawl that is hard to misplace, y’all want some gumbo befo yo oysters are ready?  I said, how did you know we wanted oysters?  She said, y’all look like oyster people.  I laughed so hard that every eye in the room turned toward us.  I said, well you are right – a half dozen for my partner here and a dozen for me.  She said, I knew you wanted a dozen, you.  Judd, behind the counter had already started shucking.

The room was long and narrow and completely covered – top, sides and bottom with gleaming white, easy to clean, tile with an occasional green accent.  There were no frills, but the room itself was a jewell.  It’s the kind of place that gives definition to the word – unique.

If you ever get to New Orleans, you need to do the regular stuff down in the Quarter.  The French Market. The Cafe´ du Monde for cafe au lait and a plate of beignets.  A Muffeletta at The Central Grocery on Decatur.  Your favorite poison at the Napoleon House Bar on Chartres, and if you’re really well fixed, do the Commander’s Palace, in the Garden District, for a Sunday brunch sitting.  You might live long enough to forget your name but you won’t forget Commander’s.  You do all that and then, one evening, tell a cab driver to take you to Cassemento’s on Magazine.    

You need to get to Cassemento’s so you can say you have actually eaten in New Orleans.

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