Even before Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of the shrimp boats on the Louisiana coast, the shrimpers in that region were suffering financially because foreign imports had depressed the market price of shellfish. According to one CNN report, many of those Louisiana shrimpers don't plan to return to the business.
I asked Dan Clothier, who sells lots of shrimp and oysters at the City Tavern (see review) if Katrina's rampage would cause his seafood prices to go up.
Clothier confessed that he didn't buy Gulf shrimp. Frozen Asian crustaceans are much cheaper than the domestic variety. "But we're still barely breaking even on our shrimp cocktail," he said. "If we wanted to make money, we'd have to charge closer to $20."
As it is, Clothier offers a modestly priced product: four huge shrimp for $9.95, one of the cheaper cocktails in town (if you don't count the $7.75 cocktail, boasting six jumbo shrimp, offered by Red Lobster restaurants).
One of the best shrimp cocktails I've eaten in the Midwest is the famous appetizer at the St. Elmo's Steakhouse in Indianapolis, which I thought was pricey at $11.95 for five good-sized shrimp covered with a blanket of fiery horseradish sauce. One of the least memorable was, interestingly enough, the expensive cocktail served at Morton's the Steakhouse (2475 Grand), where four gorgeously plump shrimp came sided with a boring roasted tomato sauce for $17. The Capital Grille's (4740 Jefferson) version is practically a bargain by comparison, five shrimp for $12.95. The much less highbrow saloon The Cashew (2000 Grand Boulevard) offers six shrimp for $12.95, with a decently punchy sauce.
For a truly cost-effective shrimp cocktail, go ahead and scoop up crustaceans at the supermarket (or Costco, which offers a prepackaged shrimp appetizer in its refrigerated food section). And for something a little more exotic than the traditional ketchup-horseradish concoction as a dipping sauce, visit Sally and David Calvin on Saturday mornings at the weekly Marche de Jour market in the courtyard behind Delaware Interiors (3848 West 75th Street). The owners of Widgeonwood Farm in Jefferson City get up each Saturday at 3 a.m., drive nearly three hours and unpack an array of homemade salsas, jams, soups, quiches, pestos, tapenades and gazpachos (as well as fresh vegetables and baked goods) by 8 a.m.
Sally's hot raspberry salsa is particularly fabulous with both cold shrimp and corn chips. It'll float your boat, baby.