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Suburban Surf

Beyond the neighborhood joint

Chances are if you are at Seither’s Seafood it is not by accident. Tucked away on a light industrial corridor on Hickory Avenue in Harahan, Seither’s feels more country than suburban. With its double-deep shell-strewn parking lot strung with lights, furnished with tents and finished with a stage for live music, you could just as easily be at a backroads dive on the Alabama Gulf Coast rather than 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans. And this is how chef and owner Jason Seither likes it. “It is something you’d find off the beaten path or down in Key West,” Seither said about his joint. “I’m all about that – the laid-back lifestyle.”

Seither’s is the odd place that benefited from, rather than was hurt by, two of our area’s most disruptive events. It opened in 2004, a year before Hurricane Katrina. Given its location, it struggled for visibility early on. Following the storm, however, it quickly reopened, establishing itself as a go-to place for people coming in to rebuild. Most recently, it secured its new identity thanks to a practical response to COVID capacity controls.

“During the pandemic they told me, ‘Hey you can’t have people inside eating at your restaurant but it is OK if they eat outside,” Seither said. “I then asked myself, ‘What would Jimmy Buffett do?’”

The answer came to him like a bolt. He bought himself some picnic tables and palm trees and set up a rudimentary stage on a trailer in the parking lot. He then reached out to his musician friends (having handled the weekend crawfish boils for the Maple Leaf Bar for over a decade, he had a lot of contacts) and the live music element snapped into place. “There is really nothing else like this in Harahan,” he said. In fact, there are few like it in New Orleans. Seither’s was now established as a default destination for food, music and good times in an environment where people were starved for exactly that. 

Yet for all these bells and whistles, at its heart it remains a neighborhood seafood joint. Seither does bring some eclectic flourishes. Most take cues from sushi bar condiments and Tex-Mex favorites. Alongside expected standards like gumbo and fried shrimp po-boys, you will find extroverted compositions like his Delacroix Nachos – homemade chips with blackened gulf fish, boiled shrimp, salsa and avocado topped with spicy mayo and snow crab salad. A master of the art of the po-boy – he’s won Po-Boy Fest six times with six different sandwiches – options like his Pee-Paw (a variation of shrimp remoulade punched up with parmesan cheese) are also good bets. But for bold, in-your-face flavor, I’d suggest the BBQ shrimp and andouille. Stripped down to core components contributing maximum flavor, it grabs hold of your lizard brain and won’t let go. For bread, he sources his loaves from the family-owned grocery Zuppardo’s. As crawfish season hits high gear, Seither’s is also a terrific destination for peel-and-eat seafood. The Hamper – a catch-all package of crawfish, crab, shrimp and more – plays well family-style. 

Seither’s is a family-friendly treasure. No wonder that it was featured on food personality Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” In a suburban landscape that all-to-often skews toward monochromatic big boxes and chain food outlets, Seither’s in Harahan is a genuine throwback to local authenticity. Here the heart of New Orleans is found in the ‘burbs.

Seither’s Seafood, 279 Hickory Ave., Harahan, (504) 738-1116. Seithersseafood.com

about the chef

Suburban Surf

New Orleans native Jason Seither grew up in the restaurant business. “As soon as I was old enough to get a job, I got one at the restaurant closest to my house,” he said. He worked for Al Copeland and rotated through hometown favorites like Harbor Seafood, gaining experience as bartender, waiter and kitchen manager before setting out on his own with Seither’s Seafood in 2004. Along the way he also handled the weekend crawfish boils for Maple Leaf Bar, which helped bring live music into the fold for Seither’s Seafood, cementing its new identity.

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