It’s no big secret that the world envies New Orleans’ culinary largess.
But we all know it takes more than a dash of Tabasco and some cayenne pepper to duplicate the magic that emanates from our local talents.
So I suppose that it’s only fitting that if our way of cooking was going to migrate anywhere it might as well be at the hands of the creators, not the imitators. But it was with hearty reservation and healthy skepticism which led me to the doorsteps of one of our most iconic epicurean institutions which now have outposts on the Florida Panhandle: Acme Oyster House. They come from opposite sides of the dining spectrum—one high brow, one low brow—but they are important bookends to the culinary firmament and I had to know whether the brands could travel or would they be diluted facsimiles.
Acme Oyster House, the legendary dive that first opened in the Quarter in 1910 and has been shucking oysters ever since has spawned offspring in Metairie, Covington and Baton Rouge. These all make sense. But Destin?
Located in the Baytown Warf development in Sandestin, Acme’s two story mustard colored building logically resembles a Bourbon Street balconied hovel and the interior feels casually familiar. We pulled up to the bar where a grizzled veteran oyster shucker named Steve was cutting into a pile of monsters. On his wrist a tattoo with a simple maxim: “ Shut Up and Shuck.” Off to a good start! We set up camp, ordered two Abita’s and dug in.
The dozen raw oysters were massive, meaty and intense. Since Gustav, the shipments from Louisiana had been shut down so we would beating from the local Florida beds. While coming from a different end of the gulf, I can assure you that they were as spectacular as you would find down in the Iberville location.
Next up: the chargrilled dozen. Again, bull’s eye. The temperature was perfect—nice and hot with the perfect amount of Romano cheese and garlic butter sauce.
But the most important test of all was last up: the poboy. Anyone who appreciates a truly magnificent poboy knows that the bread makes or breaks it. And anyone who knows about local bread knows that Leidenheimer’s is the only game in town. Luckily Acme is not willing to substitute.
I ordered the Fried Peacemaker, a symphony of fried oysters and shrimp served with Tabasco infused mayo. When it arrived it was glorious, its innards overflowing onto the plate. The bread crackled in my fingertips but held strong through bite after bite, admirably serving as the platform upon which the seafood could shine.
Sure you might miss the stench of the Quarter and some of the local characters which make the originals shine. But Acme’s Destin outpost admirably brings the magic to the beach and does us proud.