The Seafood Issue

New Orleans Own BBQ Shrimp

Newcomers to New Orleans are often puzzled by our famous barbeque shrimp, a dish that bears no relation to any form of conventional barbeque despite the name. Pascal Radosta, of Pascal’s Manale Restaurant fame, is credited with inventing the now classic dish at his Uptown restaurant on Napoleon Avenue in 1954.

From its earliest days, Manale’s was a favorite spot for New Orleans Fair Ground racing folks. During a visit with racetrack aficionado Vincent Sutro, Pascal heard about a special shrimp dish his friend had recently enjoyed in Chicago. Pascal headed into Manale’s kitchen and soon returned with a version that Sutro proclaimed superior to what he’d enjoyed in the Windy City.

At Manale’s then and now, big head-on Gulf shrimp are served swimming in a buttery, spicy sauce that begs to be sopped up with the accompanying hot French bread. Adventurous bibbed diners dig in with gusto to enjoy this delight meant to be eaten with your hands. In the 1980s, when a hollowed-out po-boy loaf filled with peeled shrimp in buttery barbeque sauce was introduced on Manale’s lunch menu, many po-boy restaurants followed suit.

The recipe for Manale’s barbeque shrimp sauce remains a closely guarded secret, often imitated with varying degrees of success in restaurants across the U.S. Ralph Brennan’s Red Fish Grill has taken the barbeque seafood concept to new heights with their BBQ oyster po-boy. Substituting crispy, fried oysters for shrimp doused with a spicy New Orleans style barbeque sauce and finished with crumbled blue cheese, the popular dish is served on crispy Leidenheimer’s po-boy bread. To date, Ralph’s BBQ oyster po-boy has won first prize at the annual Oak Street Po-Boy Festival a record nine times and is a menu standard at the Bourbon Street restaurant.

Seventy years after Pascal Radosta whipped up the first batch of barbeque shrimp, every New Orleans restaurant worth its salt boasts its own version. But there is just something magical about indulging in a bowlful at the place where it all began, Pascal’s Manale Restaurant.