Our food critic’s name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.
For years I’ve heard a variety of opinions about Drago’s from friends who visited the longtime New Orleans restaurant. Ever since the Drago’s family opened a Baton Rouge outpost, I had been curious to try it out. With an empty fridge and an envie for seafood, we threw caution to the wind and made the trek to Constitution Avenue.
The menu is extensive with a dozen appetizers vying for your attention even before the soups and salads. By the time I finished reading, I was famished from the effort.
The Crawfish Meatball sounded like a unique starter to our meal. As presented, it was an unexpected fried seafood ball stuffed with loads of crabmeat and crawfish. The bright, piquant, cheese-laden marinara sauce covering it was wonderful and would have been excellent on pasta. Overall, this appetizer satisfies cravings for both seafood and Italian red sauce. Win, win.
Wanting to try a wide swath of dishes, I created a meal out of the Crabmeat Mediterranean Side Salad, Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo and a side order of Red Beans & Rice.
The salad was a light and fresh starter, with copious crabmeat piled atop iceberg lettuce for a chilled crunch. A sprightly, creamy dressing with a touch of black pepper deliciously enrobed everything, and a squeeze of the delightful Creole seasoning-coated lemon wedges helped marry all the flavors.
The gumbo was thick in the bowl and heavy on the palate with little nuance and overt black pepper that overpowered the dish. But the red beans and rice side was creamy, homey comfort-food goodness with a great rice-to-bean ratio. I only wished there had been more sausage.
My partner was torn by some of the more unique entrees at Drago’s, settling on the Boudin Stuffed Shrimp with maque choux on the side.
From the name, we expected butterflied and stuffed shrimp that would then be fried, similar to those found at other seafood restaurants. Instead the boudin was served out of the casing as a meaty/rice base to grilled shrimp. The boudin on its own was only average. But the fantastically juicy, highly spiced grilled shrimp were outstanding and could’ve stood alone. A thick brown gravy sauced the whole dish. Unfortunately it wasn’t until three quarters in that we noticed the maque choux side was missing. Corn would have definitely brightened this entree.
We were almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of dessert offerings, though the count fell two short of the appetizers. Few of the desserts are made in house, but there was one housemade option we had already zeroed in on. Key Lime Parfait sounded like a lighter version of the traditional pie.
Served in a glass, it was filled with loads of whipped cream that hid an ethereally light, tart mousse-like key lime fluff. Once the spoon hit bottom I heard a distinct crunch and was surprised to discover a crumbled chocolate cookie foundation. Though I would have never thought chocolate and key lime would play well together, they did quite nicely.
Most of our meal was good—with noteworthy items like the Crawfish Meatball and its Italian-influenced sauce and the red beans and rice. For a casual eatery, the pricing seemed on the higher side, with many dinner entrees ranging from $20 to $30. But if those famous charbroiled oysters and traditional Cajun and Creole dishes are what you seek, give it a try. Bonus: You get dinner and a show with the chargrilling station front and center.
THE BASICS: Drago and Klara Cvitanovich opened the original Drago’s in New Orleans in 1969. By the popularity of its charbroiled oysters and seafood dishes, the restaurant expanded to locations in Metairie; Lafayette; Jackson, Mississippi; and here in Baton Rouge in January 2020.
WHAT’S A MUST: There’s nothing wrong with starting off the meal with those famous charbroiled oysters. We also fell for the Crawfish Meatball and Crabmeat Mediterranean Salad. For a hefty entree, try the spicy Boudin Stuffed Shrimp. Close dinner out on a sweet note with the Key Lime Parfait.
Daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
4580 Constitution Ave.
This article was originally published in the June 2021 issue of 225 magazine.