My go-to line line when touting Mississippi's attributes to out-of-state friends is, “We’re a day trip from Memphis, beaches, and New Orleans.” Bragging aside, it’s even better when the best of their cuisine lands closer to home. Our luck improved in 2017 when Drago’s, the crown jewel of New Orleans seafood restaurants, opened in Jackson. Drago’s hit the ground running in the old Huntington’s Grille location on County Line Road, attracting diners from around the state who'd either sampled their fare in New Orleans or only heard about it. From the look of things during my last visit, even more are enjoying having a NOLA classic in our state.
Perhaps best known for its charbroiled oysters, Drago's was opened by Drago and Klara Cvitanovich in Metairie in 1969. The restaurant expanded to locations inside the Hilton New Orleans Riverside and Lafayette. The opening of the Jackson restaurant was the company’s first move outside Louisiana. Judging from the full tables every time I’ve visited Drago’s in Jackson, it was a smart move on their part.
“Mississippi, and especially Jackson, has really embraced Drago’s since the first day we opened,” said manager Christina Thacker. “Many come for our chargrilled oysters and others simply love authentic, New Orleans-style food.”
Thacker was right in stating that many come for the oysters. Drago’s is famous for its charbroiled oysters and in fact, claims to have invented the dish.
In 1993, Tommy Cvitanovich, a second-generation restaurant manager, was experimenting with a sauce of garlic, butter, and herbs, according to Drago’s website. He brushed the original sauce on a fresh batch of oysters, topped them with blend of Parmesan and Romano cheese, and cooked them in their shell on a hot grill. The results were delicious, and a legendary dish was born.
Since then, char-grilled oysters have become a favorite among Drago’s customers. On a busy day, Drago’s restaurants serve more than 900 dozen char-grilled oysters.
Despite the famous mollusks, Drago’s does have much more on its menu. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ve come to the right place. Drago's serves a variety of dishes filled with lobster, shrimp, fish, crab and even alligator.
If you drop by Drago’s for lunch, you’ll find a special menu with almost everything offered for dinner. Daily specials make ordering easy and insure your meal will be delivered quickly.
A few lunch favorites are meatballs with angel hair pasta ($8.99), red beans, rice, and sausage ($10.95), shrimp Alfredo ($11.95), and shrimp creole and grits ($10.95). Entrees are served with a house Mediterranean salad.
Lunch plates are in the $10 to $12 range and include an entrée and two sides. Options are grilled or fried chicken or fish; fried shrimp or oysters; crab cakes or two shrimp tacos.
A half poboy ($10.95 - $11.95) comes with fries or salad with fillings that include fried shrimp, catfish, gator, oysters, portabella spinach, roast beef, and sausage.
For dinner, many head to the oyster bar to indulge in a half-dozen ($11.95) or dozen ($19.95) of the world-famous treats. If you’re not in the mood for oysters, other starters on the menu are BBQ shrimp ($11.95), fleur de lis shrimp ($11.95), alligator tacos ($12.95), and lobster mac and cheese ($14.95).
A few of Drago’s house specialties are the mixed grill ($29.95, pictured left), which includes a half charbroiled Maine lobster, blackened shrimp with a Cajun cream sauce, corn maque choux, and potatoes; seafood pasta dish ($19.95) of shrimp and crab meat with a light cream sauce served over angel hair pasta and topped with cheeses and shrimp ‘n grits with tasso ($22.95). It’s a delicious dish of grilled shrimp and tasso in a buttery cream sauce served over grits.
One of my favorite Drago’s meals is pasta jambalaya ($21.95). Chicken, pork, and andouille sausage are cooked in a spicy cream sauce and served over pasta. It doesn’t get much more Cajun than this dish.
Lagniappe entrees are red beans and rice ($17.95), crawfish etouffee ($19.95), shrimp creole ($19.95), and a New Orleans classic dish, grillades and grits ($25.99). Grillades and grits is a rich dish of pulled veal cooked with caramelized onions served in a rich gravy over grits.
If you prefer your seafood fried, Drago’s can take care of that desire. Fried platters of catfish ($18.95), shrimp ($20.95), and oysters ($21.95) are served up daily with sides of crispy fries.
The “Maine Attraction” – lobsters, of course - is available in a variety of sizes, ranging from $21.95 for a pound and a half to $45.95 for a 2-2-1/4 pound. Other dishes are the charbroiled lobster ($28.95); lobster Marco ($29.95) stuffed with shrimp and mushrooms and served with a cream sauce over pasta; and lobster empire ($29.95), a similar dish with oysters instead of shrimp.
Rounding out the menu is a lineup of soups and gumbos ($7.95 for a cup or $11.95 for a bowl) and entree salads ($8.95 to $19.95) topped with crab meat, shrimp, lobster, tuna, and chicken.
If there’s room for dessert, don’t hesitate to order one of Drago’s New Orleans-inspired sweet treats. Two of my favorite are spicy praline parfait and crème brulee (both $8.95). Other options are hot brownie a la mode, cheesecake, apple cobbler, and ice cream sundae.
Drago’s is located at 1005 E. County Line Road next to the Jackson Hilton. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday and until 8 p.m. on Sundays.