Finally, I get the Galatoire’s “thing.” Incredibly, as a native, and even more, as Tom’s wife, I hardly ever visit Galatoire’s. Not my scene. But I learned recently that even though it isn’t my scene, I can still appreciate it for what it is. Utterly unique. Personal opinion only, of the Grande Dames, I think this one gets the most attention. All have their own personality, but this one is the most fun. The naughty youngest sister.
Some of my favorite people are regulars here. They celebrate birthdays at Galatoire’s. I have been to one of these birthday lunches here, but the most recent one was more of an “insiders” experience. ML baked the cake for the event, so I delivered the cake then switched into guest mode. Arriving as the restaurant opened, I got to see the full Galatoire’s “thing” unfold.
There were two long tables of twenty with women in fascinators setting them up for their party. Seeing the fascinators reminded me of something Tom said once about the women at Galatoire’s. He told me they “dress to the nines.” I told him to be forewarned that I top out at three. As I did this day in a black frumpy tunic and boring pants. Even my leopard ballet flats didn’t help. Here were white linen suits and straw fedoras and fascinators and Lilly Pulitzer.
I was among a handful of guests there that early. I asked for the table and got a blank stare. “We don’t take reservations,” I was told. That’s what others were told too as they came in the door. “Come back at 1;30, come back at 2:15, etc.” These tourists were glad they could be part of this at any time. Yet the dining room was empty, save for the fascinator gals. There was a guy walking around with a clipboard, constantly being asked questions about the names on his clipboard. People were ushered upstairs, back out the door, and only a few into the dining room.
I asked the clipboard guy about our party as the cake sat on the front table. He knew nothing about any name I gave him. Finally I texted the host. “See Bob, “was his mysteriously reply. I asked aloud to anyone nearby, “Is there a Bob here?” An affable waiter I met the last time I was here, smiled and said, “Oh, sure, why didn’t you say so? I’ll take you to him.” Then he told me to leave the cake there as he opened the front door to the restaurant. I couldn’t leave another ML masterpiece on the table so I grabbed it. But Bob wasn’t far. He was literally right outside on the street, looking exactly like the kind of guy you’d pay to wait in line for you. We were introduced and I walked back inside.
The lobby was now filled with people hoping to gain entrance to this vaunted space, some successful, others not. The host showed up and explained that Bob is a professional line stander, who makes $10 a head to procure a table for people. I thought about all the seats in the restaurant. Bob must do pretty well. His clothes top out at one, but he’s not sitting in the dining room. He’s hanging out on Bourbon Street.
When it was all settled we were assigned two waiters, drinks were taken and appetizer samplers were placed down. This one was the ravigote, the red version of the shrimp remoulade, and some Angels on Horseback. This was all very good. The Angels on Horseback were crisp and greaseless, and hot.
The menu is huge here, and as an occasional visitor I was lost, I hastily ordered more shrimp remoulade before noticing the Almondines going to nearly everyone. I asked for that instead. The host got a gorgeous steak. There were Brabant potatoes at the table and asparagus. This Almondine fish in the Meuniere butter is so quintessentially New Orleans and so perfectly delicious, (as was everything else on the table), I understand all those people happily taking their assigned time to return to this particular Grande Dame. Even when it is surrounded by plenty of other great restaurants.
209 Bourbon St New Orleans