Galliano. Warehouse District & Center City: 200 Julia St. 504-324-4065.
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
I have been ambiguous about Galliano since it opened. Taken as a whole, that’s also the way people I’ve spoken to felt about the place. It has a relaxing, casual environment, with food that came from the traditions of the Cajun country, with a heavy hand for pepper and the idea that more food is always better food.
Here’s a stray fact about Galliano. The name is also that of a town on Bayou Lafourche as the highway to Grand Isle heads into the Gulf of Mexico. That’s Cajun country, all right–although with different food than what you find in Lafayette. Galliano is probably an adaptation of the familiar Italian name Gagliano, the name of some of the most prized violins in the world. I never detected any violins while I was there.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
I am only now getting around to review Galliano, even though I get a lot of email from people who like the place. That effect is also notable on my radio show, where Galliano gets a good bit of commentary. One such correspondent is an avid reader in Chicago, who just last week told me that only a week before he had a great dinner at Galliano.
The tastemaker of Galliano is Chef Ricky Cheramie. His Cajun roots made him a good candidate for a more casual and familiar kind of restaurant than has been mentioned here so far. On my most recent visit–which was more or less in line with previous visits–I had a glass of wine and thought about the food. The soup of the day–crab and corn, I think–sounded good. So did the chicken-andouille gumbo. But I was grabbed by an appetizer called Onion Ring Calas. Calas are fried rice cakes that were popular around New Orleans a hundred years ago, but rarely seen now. Thought I’d try it. The red onion rings were coated with a beer batter, and this was the calas aspect. It was enough food to split at least four ways. It also was so imbued with red pepper that I broke out into a sweat. (Not a harmful condition, but over the top on the flavor side.) It didn’t resemble any other calas I’ve ever had.
The entree I fancied was another relic from the past. The menu called it Coubion. I steeled my palate for what the menu further said was called courtbouillon in French-Cajun cuisine. Well, I know what courtbouillon is, and it’s a favorite of mine, a broad and very generous assortment of local seafood: shrimp, oysters, Gulf fish, crawfish, and crab claws, all cooked slowly in a deep, warm broth.
Well, at least they’re consistent. Once again, we had enough food for two to four hungry people for $32. And it was immersed with a sweaty amount of red pepper. I can easily imagine that some people would find this wonderful, the high pepper level making a strong statement about Louisiana flavors. Reminiscent of Chef Paul Prudhomme’s early years. For me, a little went a long way, and a lot would be total overload.
Galliano occupies a spot in the Warehouse District that became familiar when Philip Lopez opened Root there. Root proved to have been too brilliant for its era, and is now extinct. The same fate befell the related Square Root, which in 2016 was trying to be the best restaurant in New Orleans. It closed less than two years after it opened, and is now the excellent Gris Gris. Galliano was built on the foundation of Root by the guys who opened the very good and busy Restaurant Rebirth a few blocks away.
The bright green plastic chairs and peculiar music that used to create the atmosphere here during the Root years are gone. The decor now is Warehouse Modern: stout wood columns, exposed brick walls, dim lighting, a very large bar and a concrete floor. The service staff is attentive and gives thorough information about the best parts of the menu.
They may be following house rules a bit too closely. On one chilly, windy night recently, I walked a few blocks to Galliano, where I saw a Closed sign and eight people lingering on the sidewalk. Another sign said that opening time is 5:30. The time was 5:25, said the hostess, who, after I pushed my way inside, said that I would have to wait the five minutes outside. Excuse: she said that she couldn’t let me in without also allowing the other eight people waiting for the official opening time. But they were friendly enough after that, and gave me no resistance to my request for a table instead of a high bar chair.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Oysters on the half shell
Boudin with mirliton chowchow
Alligator sauce piquant
Chicken andouille gumbo
Spinach and pecan salad
Fried chicken with red beans
Beef short ribs
Stuffed chicken with field-pea fricasse
Cajun short ribs for two ($65)
Smoked pork chop with calas dough
FOR BEST RESULTS
Get a reservation. The place often fills up when conventions are in town. Be aware that the food here can be very high in pepper.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
To my palate, the pepper component in much of the food here is a bit much. Others may love it. If so, a contest might be appropriate among friends.
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 +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Early-evening specials
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Oyster bar
- Unusually large servings
- Reservations accepted