Having lunch at Galatoire’s, one of the Grande Dames of New Orleans.
New Orleans has one of the most revered food cultures in the country, and a big reason for that is the presence of the six Grand Dame restaurants, most of which are in the French Quarter. Antoine’s is the oldest and is, in fact, the oldest continuously-operating restaurant in the country, and it’s joined by Arnaud’s, Tujague’s, Brennan’s, Broussarud’s, and Galatoire’s to round out the rest. Each restaurant has its own specialty and/or notoriety, and today I wanted to share a little bit about getting lunch at Galatoire’s, and why it should be on your list of things to do on your next trip to the Crescent City. (Just don’t plan to go on a Friday!)
Galatoire’s was founded in 1905 by Jean Galatoire after taking over the restaurant that had been in operation there previously, and is found on Bourbon Street between Bienville and Iberville Streets in the heart of the French Quarter. Known for its extensive menu of Creole (also known as city) cuisine, walking through its hallowed doors whisks you back to a time where waiters wore ties and tails and, if you’re lucky enough to be a regular, a drink will be waiting for you when you arrive at your table.
For those of us who aren’t as fortunate to be local to this restaurant, it’s an absolutely must-visit whether for lunch or dinner. Be prepared to be more dressed-up to come here, as shorts are not allowed at any time and men must wear jackets after 5PM. (They do have a large rack of jackets to lend you if you need one, but you’re likely better off bringing your own.) While the upstairs dining area does allow for reservations, the main downstairs dining room has an infamous no-reservations policy, which means on peak days you could find yourself waiting outside on Bourbon Street in order to get a table.
One way to avoid that is to not go on a Friday for lunch. This is the most popular day for lunch at the restaurant, and while it may seem like it would be a fun experience, the majority of patrons on that day are locals and you as the tourist will be on the outside looking in, even as you sit among them. (Shoutout to 25 Definitive New Orleans Restaurants for that invaluable advice!) Lunch is generally a relaxed time to go otherwise, however; you may see some wheeling and dealing as you sip on a cocktail, but better to focus on the experience and trust your waiter to provide suggestions on what looks particularly delicious that day.
Our meal there took place four years ago, but I remember it as clear as day: starting with some buttery, herbaceous snails and fried sweetbreads, we eventually moved on to crab gratin for me and pan-seared duck breast with dirty rice for my dining companion. We ate well, sipped on carefully-crafted old fashioneds, and drank in the ambiance, from the gorgeous penny tiles on the floor to the gold and green wallpaper stained with tobacco smoke. It was the perfectly leisurely lunch, and while it’s a splurge, it’s one well-worth saving for.
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