New Gallagher's, Same Calories

Written by Mary Leigh Fitzmorris May 22, 2021 14:16 in Dining Diary

“Oh, when will I ever learn?” I asked myself as we drove back to New Orleans from Bay St. Louis last Saturday. To the consternation of my family, friends, and sometimes even myself, I take spontaneity to aberrant levels.

Saturday was a gorgeous day, and about mid-afternoon Tom and I bandied about ideas for dinner. Somehow we arrived at the same place: steak. Keith Young’s came to the forefront of consciousness first, because it’s our favorite, but we had only been to Desi Vega’s once. I suggested a drive to Bay St. Louis and a visit to Field’s, the steakhouse I have recently  heard good things about. It’s immediate neighbor is the Thorny Oyster, sister restaurant to our hometown fave Oxlot 9. Arriving at prime walk-in time assured us a spot, didn’t it?

The trip to Bay St. Louis always surprises me in its brevity. It seemed less than an hour and we were there. The road right on the bay is always buzzing, but this day particularly so. Two blocks in, the cop car with blinking lights confirmed my suspicions - something special was happening today. Guys walking by with pirate hats reminded me of something my niece told me a few weeks ago, when I met her at Thorny Oyster for dinner - May 15th was Pirate’s Weekend in Bay St. Louis.

I should have turned around and headed west then, but that’s not me, and Tom was oddly interested in pressing on. We drove around the 3 or 4 block perimeter of the main action, which appears to be a pirate’s bar a block off the beach in a residential neighborhood. Our path was set by cops telling us where we couldn’t go, and eventually we parked and started walking, an idea I’m embarrassed to admit in print. Even holding on to Tom, this was too far to walk. We turned back to the car and left, but not before a woman exclaimed, “Look how cute ya’ll are!!” in that way that people marvel at little old people. I briefly considered clocking her out of her alcohol-induced observations, but getting Tom back to the car was my focus.

We headed back to Covington, and I remembered Pat Gallagher has a place now in Slidell. I knew the later it got the less likely we were to even walk-in anywhere. I called Gallagher’s on Front Street, and got the voicemail, leaving a request for 30 minutes from then. I called Keith Young’s - maybe we could find a spot at the bar if we hurried I was told.

Desi Vega’s bar stools were quickly filling, the last two taken while we were on the phone. I tried Gallagher’s in Slidell again and this time they answered, offering me 6:45pm with the tag line, “Someone cancelled literally the call before yours, so you got lucky.”

We arrived early for the reservation and got lucky again, a two-top leaving minutes after we got there. The table was in an odd little corner of three tables elevated by two steps from the rest of the dining room, and cordoned off with a rail. It’s an unusual space, this restaurant in the corner of a strip mall on Front Street in Slidell. We have been here before, once when they first opened. We sat in a small room behind a curtain that seemed like an overflow room.

The main dining room has a nice buzz. It is high-ceilinged with what seems like an indoor canopy, and a long curved bar. Every barstool and table was filled, with a few large parties in the mix. Large parties often slow down service, but these are seasoned pros, and it went off without a hitch.

There was no question needed for starters. Tom would have Oysters Pablo, a signature here, and a most unusual oyster preparation. A baked oyster dish with tequila and heavy parmesan cheese, I understand Tom’s obsession with this dish. We love it at the flagship restaurant, but it was slightly different here. The unique flavor imparted by the tequila was more subdued than usual, and the topping much more crusted.

We both definitely preferred the ones we are used to, but as Tom proves daily, can there ever be anything to complain about when oysters are placed before you?

We ordered the bone-in filet, a special cut that we like. I asked about potato options and were told mashed potatoes and au gratin.  Mashed potatoes are last on my list of potato choices, so I chose au gratin, along with creamed spinach and mushrooms. We would split the steak. 

While waiting for food I enjoy watching other food go through the dining room. The table below our elevated spot got their order, which included a baked potato and some kabobs, which had easily enough meat  to rival the ounces of the steak I ordered. Here were four tournadoes spaced out with large slices of onion and pepper, and flanked by green beans.  I asked our waitress if we could switch the order, and we did. The kitchen would not be getting to our order just yet anyway. There were two parties of 8 and 14 ahead of us.  We got the baked potato, dropped the mushrooms, and got kabobs and a crispy redfish dish for Tom. The waitress was very enthusiastic about the crispy redfish.

The food came far sooner than I expected. This kitchen was unfazed by the large parties and a full house.

The silly thing I have about undercooked shrimp that goes back to a traumatic experience before Katrina has now moved on to include a sous vide paranoia. My kabobs had that sous vide look, but the waitress assured me that the restaurant has no sous vide machine in the house.  Glad I didn’t waste an order of a big pork chop to see how it sous vides. I realized with the first bite of the kabob that it was the marinade of Asian flavors that changed the color and even the texture. This was done perfectly and hit all the right notes for an Asian-inspired kabob. But what I went to Gallagher’s for was that Texas beef experience and taste. As usual, my careless glance at a menu did me in. It was a very good dish, but not the flavor I thought I was getting. As Tom has always said about dining, (and it’s true of absolutely everything else too) every experience depends on your expectations. An ordinary restaurant will seem great if your expectations were low, and a great one less so if someone has hyped it to you too much. This disappointment is totally on me.

Tom was as enthusiastic about his crispy redfish as the waitress. This fish was indeed crispy, and utterly laden with

toasted almonds in a brown butter sauce that was wonderfully everywhere. This may have been the best toasted almond Meuniere I have ever had. And why not? Pat Gallagher is the butter master. I wait for an entree of just butter one day at any of his steakhouses. That’s the good news about this crispy redfish dish. Also atop the fish and scattered about the plate  were white nuggets of what looked from my end to be feta cheese, but it couldn’t be. These tiny blocks were the promised crabmeat, only they weren’t incorporated into the dish. They were in fact lukewarm as though they had been tossed on as an afterthought. Peculiar. It couldn’t have affected much, let alone ruined, such a sublime buttery toasted almond flavor on this perfectly fried fish. But it was an unpleasant surprise. It made the dish a 9.75 instead of a 10.

We also got a massive baked potato which was fluffy with the perfect amount of butter, cheese, bacon, and sour cream. I was less delighted with the creamed spinach, but again, we are talking spinach, artichoke, cream, and parmesan cheese. Can this ever be bad?  But I was unimpressed with it enough that I could be talked into another choice next time. If you are with me though that a steakhouse experience must include a creamed spinach dish, this will work.

We like this place a lot, and will remember to include it as part of the steakhouse options nearby. It is a different vibe than Pat’s other places, and it might be my favorite of the three. Pat Gallagher is enormously successful on the northshore with his brand of, as Tom calls it, “lusty food.”

Don’t go to a Gallagher’s anything if you are counting calories. One goes to a Pat Gallagher restaurant if you want to savor the sensual pleasures of indulging in indulgent food.