#2 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Galatoire’s still wins any poll to determine which is the city’s most definitive fine-dining restaurant. This despite the endless debate as to whether the restaurant was better in the Miss Yvonne era, or during the current non-Galatoire-family ownership, now on place for some five to fifteen years, depending on how it’s defined. Still, no matter where this discussion goes, it always seems to return to what a wonderful thing it is to dine at Galatoire’s. Particularly if you’re eating seafood. Starting with the classic cold appetizers of shrimp and crabmeat, through a bunch of hot starters, then into a large selection of local and not-so-local fish, prepared in a host of classical ways.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Galatoire’s is the apotheosis of the traditional Creole-French restaurant, so tightly integrated into the city’s culture that almost anything it does makes news. With a menu full of borrowings from classic French cuisine and other New Orleans restaurants, it reassures us that we stand on firm culinary ground. Just as important is the social side of Galatoire’s. No place better shows off the style of the upper levels of New Orleans society–who have much more fun than their counterparts in other American cities.
The first generations of the Galatoire family had the knowledge and taste to set a standard that lives on today. The food and service are simple, relying on local ingredients of excellent quality (especially seafood) and recipes refined through decades of natural selection. Meanwhile, the waiters perform organically with the kitchen and the customers to deliver the best to those who know how to enjoy it. Truth be told, the food here is brilliant in only a small percentage of its long menu catalog. That doesn’t matter, because if you understand Galatoire’s–something not possible on a first visit–you also know what and how to order.
Chef Jean Galatoire came to New Orleans from a small town in France in the late 1800s, when French cuisine dominated the city. He went to work for a restaurant called Victor’s, and in 1905 he bought it and changed the name to his own. Cooking French classics with New Orleans ingredients, he and his large family (now in its fourth generation) established Galatoire’s as particularly sympatheque to the unique New Orleans style of socializing. In the late 1990s, a shift in the family brought in new management and performed a major renovation. New Year’s Day 2006, Galatoire’s gave great comfort to the city by reopening after Hurricane Katrina. In early 2010, the Galatoire family created a stir by selling most of its interest in the restaurant to two investors (long-time customers both).
The main dining room downstairs is the most photographed restaurant interior in New Orleans. Tiled floors, mirrored walls, motionless fans of polished brass hanging from high ceilings, and bright naked light bulbs create half the scene. The rest is supplied by the jammed-in customers, all well-dressed (especially the women) and deeply engaged in sending a convivial energy back and forth, to the accompaniment of ambient noise that can make conversation impossible. The second floor dining rooms are pleasant but much less distinctive. However, the addition of a bar and waiting area in the 1990s was very welcome, all but eliminating the need to wait in line on the sidewalk for the unreservable downstairs tables.
Fried eggplant and souffle potatoes bearnaise
Oysters en brochette
Crabmeat canapé Lorenzo
Godchaux salad (seafood and greens)
Fish meunière amandine
Fish with crabmeat Yvonne
Poached fish with hollandaise or Marguery sauce
Crabmeat au gratin
Fried or broiled soft shell crabs meunière
Shrimp or crawfish etouffée
Filet mignon, strip sirloin, or ribeye steak
Banana bread pudding
FOR BEST RESULTS
Knowing a waiter here is a huge advantage. Take their advice without exception.This is the last restaurant in town that requires a jacket for men at dinner, and (attention!) no jeans ever. No restaurant scene surpasses in joyousness the Friday afternoon crowd at Galatoire’s. However, the quality of the food and service come way down then. The best time to come is in the later afternoon; the restaurant keeps going through dinner, is never empty, and is more attentive to the fine points.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Someday, something will be done to give the upstairs dining rooms more of the feeling of the downstairs. Some of the waiters are playing a role more than they’re waiting tables.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +3
- Consistency +1
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +3
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Good for children
- Reservations accepted