Digging In: Zimmer’s garlicky crab salad is a two-fisted side dish

CASUAL

Italian Crab Salad

Zimmer’s Seafood

4915 St. Anthony Ave., (504) 282-7150

This family-run Gentilly seafood shop is best known for its po-boys and boiled crabs, shrimp and crawfish. But in the deli case you’ll find an assortment of side dishes made in-house at Zimmer’s, including this impressive crab salad ($7 pint/$14 quart).

This is not a delicate fork-and-knife salad, but rather a rugged, in-shell affair of quartered crab marinated in olive oil, garlic, lemon, Italian dressing, celery and parsley. It’s packed up in Chinese take-out boxes, and then wrapped in plastic for safe transport, but still its appetizing garlicky aroma carries.

There are some logistical issues to consider. There are no seats at Zimmer’s, so you’ll have to head somewhere else to eat (I recommend City Park or the lakefront). Make sure a stack of napkins is handy. Eating this salad will get both hands pretty oily, and a set of seafood crackers would be helpful for handling those claws.

UPSCALE

Fresh Fish Payton

Impastato’s Restaurant

3400 16th St., Metairie, (504) 455-1545; impastatos.com

Joe Impastato is president of the Saints Hall of Fame, now located inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Meanwhile, his Metairie restaurant functions something like an adjunct to that institution, from all the memorabilia lining the walls to a Creole-Italian menu that pays homage to Saints greats past and present.

The kitchen’s signature fish dish ($17.95), usually prepared with trout, brings a generous fillet that’s breaded, pan-fried and served with mushrooms, artichoke hearts, lump crabmeat and crawfish in a lemon butter sauce. The recipe is set in stone, but Impastato changes its name on the menu whenever the Saints bring on a new head coach. So today’s trout Payton is the same as the trout Haslett that preceded it. Given the Saints’ performance lately, though, it might just taste a little sweeter.

WILDCARD

Thai Chili Lamb Po-Boy

The Milk Bar

1514 Delachaise St., (504) 891-9361

710 S. Carrollton Ave., (504) 309-3310

It’s clear that the po-boy is up for reinterpretation these days as more restaurants put their own creative spins on the classics. The unusual Thai chili lamb po-boy ($8) served at both of the Milk Bar’s Uptown locations is a leading example, but this sandwich also springs from a tradition of its own.

Milk Bar proprietors Inta and Kevin Phayer are both ex-pats. Kevin is from England and Inta is from Australia, where “milk bar” is a term for the trusty corner sandwich shop. The lamb for this sandwich harkens to the “Sunday roast,” a deeply-ingrained Australian family dining tradition. At the Milk Bar, it’s sliced thin like deli meat and topped with Thai chili, which is a chunky, spicy/sweet, candy apple-red spread common to gastropubs Down Under. This goes into a crusty pistolette welded shut with melted mozzarella and given dab of sour cream for good measure. It eats like a modern po-boy all right, but for native Australians it will probably taste a bit like home.