Seafood Restaurants Feel the Oil Spill Pinch

So last night I ate at my first stereotypical Gulf Coast seafood restaurant since the Deepwater Horizon accident in late April.  This is not a review therefore I will not give the name or the location of the family-owned eatery.  After all, it was not their fault.

Unlike my dining companion, the events of the past two months effected what I ordered.  The special that night was all-you-can-eat fried catfish.  Fresh water cats, mind you, most likely from one of the farm ponds in the neighboring county so that is the direction I went.  My associate opted for the seafood platter with the aforementioned catfish plus oysters, shrimp, crab claws (a Gulf Coast delicacy) and a stuffed crab.

The first thing we noticed when the plate arrived was the size of the oysters.  They were minuscule; they were wee.  Then there was the flavor.  I had tasted oysters like that before - they were clearly from the Pacific.  I want to go on record as saying that our friends on the Pacific Coast enjoy fantastic seafood.  The wild salmon is amazingly healthy and the Dungeness crab is mystical.  But for the most part, Pacific oysters are not very good.  There's a reason why chef's who do not work in coastal areas prefer Gulf oysters for their menus; they're just better.  Well, were.

The shrimp, however, were plump and juicy with perfect texture just not a lick of flavor.  I mean nothing, no flavor that identified them as shrimp or seafood or even protein.  Most likely the shrimp had come from some toxic chemical laden pond in Asia.  They most assuredly would never pass USDA inspection.  How lucky for the importer that the USDA never bothers to inspect Asian seafood.  Next came the crab claws.  They were large and fried golden brown but the texture was dry.  Of course that could be from either overcooking or quality but the flavor ended any discussion as to which.  Crab should never taste like fish.  And as for the stuffed crab - it was not much bigger around than a silver dollar.

We spoke for a while with the owner, a hard working 30-something most likely of Vietnamese decent.  "We haven't seen you in here for a while.  Glad you come back."  Many of her regulars have stopped coming as often as well.  Some are taking a hit in the wallet because there haven't been any tourists spending money wherever they work for a living.  Others have tasted this, whatever this is that now passes for seafood and won't return.  She used to have a lunch buffet, the price of seafood most certainly made it unprofitable.

To you, Midwesterners, I now have greater respect for your plight - you have to eat this crap all the time.  But people do not visit Lincoln or Tulsa or Kansas City just to get a soft-shell crab po'boy - they go there to eat a truly magnificent steak.  No upstate New Yorkers vacation in Biloxi for the hot wings.  And I'll be the first to admit that nobody comes to Alabama for our Manicotti (except mine, of course, which is dreamy). People visit the Gulf Coast because it embodies the good life - relaxed atmosphere, fantabulous seafood and shockingly white beaches with emerald surf.  All of that is gone.  Not for two or three years but for most us, the rest of our lives.

Imagine that for a second; see if you can grasp it.  You in L.A., what if you could never get avocado or an In-N-Out Burger ever again?  Mr. Windy City, you can forget ever splitting a deep dish with the guys on the bowling team or slamming another Italian beef for the rest of your life.  From hence forth there were no pastrami in Manhattan, no cheese steak in Philly or no ribs in Memphis.  Take the theme parks from Orlando, the music from Nashville, the NASCAR from Charlotte.  Somebody tell Seattle that Pearl Jam is moving to Oakland and they're taking coffee with them.

That is life on the Gulf Coast.  Our food, our heritage and our culture are now on the endangered list.  We are relics waiting for a museum.  Our region is now stripped of its soul even as we battle against the inevitable in a Quixotic attempt to save what little remains.

And what makes this pill all the more bitter is that it is not our fault.  We did not do this to ourselves nor was it an act of nature.  Someone (BP) made this happen.  Then someone else (the government) made it worse.  BP, through their own greed and apathy, gambled with our livelihoods and came up snake eyes.  Either by incompetence or malice, the government has failed to act or even acknowledge it's responsibility.  Well, on behalf of everyone on the Gulf Coast I would like to offer a very sardonic "thank you" to BP and President Obama.  You have turned the entire Gulf South into an Applebee's.
2 Responses
  1. Oh say it ain't so....not Applebeas!! We were there the first week of June and luckily the seafood was still awesome. I wonder if we'll be able to go back next summer. We love the Perdido Key area....such a shame what is happening there. Makes me really angry!

  2. Such a shame. We were in Perdido Key the first week of June and the seafood was still delish. I wonder if we'll be able to enjoy it again nezt year...