There are two entrances to Seither's Seafood, a small seafood joint tucked into a row of garages and workshops in Harahan. One leads to the main dining room, a cramped space with a low ceiling and the incongruously cheery decor of a beach bar. The second leads to a new oyster bar and the lair of Rodney "Doc" Jones.
No matter what you intend to eat here, this shucker's salesmanship almost ensures a half-dozen oysters will be part of the meal. The ultimate multi-tasker, he opens oysters, praises Louisiana seafood, derides the Atlanta Falcons, mixes his proprietary "mojo" cocktail sauce and talks you into another half-dozen all at once.
This little oyster bar used to be Seither's retail market. Its conversion was a smart move, doubling the dining space and adding character. But it's really just the latest in a string of evolutions for the small, easy-to-miss restaurant that offers much more than meets the eye.
At first, Seither's seems very familiar, with appetizers the size of entrees, perfunctory side salads, laminated menus and the sounds of slurping and cracking all around as people work though heaps of boiled shellfish. But then there is the Asian tuna, which is raw except for a blackened edge and looks like a Louisiana-style sushi bar salad under the spun-art stripes of spicy mayo and eel sauce. Inside the crunch of a Leidenheimer po-boy loaf diners can get fried oysters or first-rate roast beef, but also that tuna or blackened shrimp dressed with avocado or even (occassionally as a special) seafood and Italian stuffing and artichoke chunks doused with garlic butter and matted with mozzarella — a sandwich that's practically a handheld casserole.
Seither's is what you get when you combine a passion for Louisiana seafood with the foodie drive to put a distinctive spin on the same old ingredients. Owner Jason Seither and his right-hand-man Shannon "Bird" Cronin add these twists constantly.
It still doesn't get too fancy. Families gather and buddies hoist beer pitchers around tightly packed tables, and the kitchen prepares bales of spaghetti and linguini for big seafood pasta dishes. The straightforward fried or grilled seafood is generally very good (soft-shell crabs are a strong point in season) though too often the shrimp give a sandy bite from not being deveined.
Whatever else happens here, though, the beating heart of Seither's is the boiling pot. Part of this restaurant's appeal is how boiled crawfish, shrimp and crabs more closely resemble a backyard boil than your standard restaurant or bar boil. The spice level isn't high; it tastes more complex than just salt and cayenne. An array of boiled vegetables — whole garlic bulbs, onions, celery, potatoes, corn — all are standard. It shows that even as Seither's branches out, this kitchen still knows how to bring it all back home.