A Friday Lunch at Galatoire’s

Yesterday’s coffee klatch evolved into the ultimate tweet-up: lunch with Nola, Yat Pundit and Ryan (joined by his lovely fiance) at Galatoire’s Restaurant.

Galatoire’s is on Bourbon Street, near the corner at Iberville. Besides fantastic Creole cuisine, it’s famous for quite a few quirks, among them that they don’t take reservations for the first-floor dining room. This quirk complicates the fact that the first-floor dining room is the most popular place in the city for lunch on Fridays.

When the idea first started floating around for some of the NOLA bloggers to do lunch at Galatoire’s, it was generally agreed on that Friday was the only day of the week it could work. I was worried about that; legendary long lines are known to form to get a table there on Fridays. Here is a pre-K NPR story and audio of an interview on the topic of Fridays at Galatoire’s on the occasion of its 100th anniversary in 2005, also the year they won the James Beard award for the most outstanding restaurant in the country.

The Sazerac Cocktail

The restaurant has always had a special place in my family. My mom’s family is from Houma, La., and she had an aunt and uncle who lived in New Orleans. She and her brother and sister would spend summers in the city with them. My great aunt and uncle would dine at Galatoire’s every Sunday for decades, and when their nieces and nephews were in town they went along, too.

At the same time, my father (who would not meet my mother until years later at LSU) lived in mid-city off of Esplanade near the Fairgrounds, where his family rented a house owned by the Galatoire family; the Galatoire’s lived across the street. My father’s sister told me she remembers, as a little girl, Mr. Galatoire coming home on the bus with the restaurant’s receipts in a paper bag; he would hand out dimes to the kids in the neighborhood.

As we were growing up in New Orleans, my great aunt would take us to Galatoire’s for special occasions. When she died, at age 100, the entire family and many friends went to Galatoire’s after the funeral to celebrate her life. We occupied the first floor dining room for six hours. We still eat there about once a year, but never for the famous Friday lunch experience.

On this Friday, we got there fairly early, around 11:30. It was already almost too late, though. Most of the first floor had been seated already. A couple of tourists were outside when I got there and I overheard them complaining about not getting seated. “They don’t take reservations my ass,” said the guy. “You know every one in there has a reservation.” I didn’t say anything to burst his bubble because I turned around and saw Nola had arrived and we needed to pursue a table of our own.

The Grand Gouté: Shrimp Remoulade, Crabmeat Maison, Crawfish Maison and Oysters en Brochette (on separate plate)

They asked us how many, Nola said four, and they immediately said we’d have to wait for the next seating. We asked about upstairs, I wasn’t ready to hang out for an hour and a half watching people eat. They didn’t really answer one way or another. I went up there anyway to see if anyone else had arrived first. There was only one table occupied up there, no one I knew. I was trying to decide whether to call the hostess on the upstairs availability when they asked again, “How many?” This time I said five, remembering Ryan’s fiance was going to join us. Lucky thing she did, low and behold, there was a table for six open on the first floor which they gave us.

Soufflé Potatoes

Charlie, our waiter, took our drink order. Sazeracs straight up for Nola and myself. That’s another great thing about Galatoire’s–they will seat you even if the rest of your party has not yet arrived. Some people are critical of this policy. It’s not unknown for people to hire someone to stand in line and get a table for them, hold it until they arrive and then leave.

At Galatoire’s, once you have secured your table, there is no rush. It’s yours until you choose to leave. In fact, the first thing Charlie asked, after delivering our cocktails once everyone had arrived, was whether we wanted to sit a awhile, or order some appetizers? Being rather peckish, we went ahead and ordered the Grand Gouté and some Soufflé Potatoes.

Softshell Crab Meunière

We took our time passing around and eating the appetizers. Eventually we got around to ordering entrees. Softshell Crab Meunière for Nola and Yat Pundit, Trout Meunière Amandine for myself, Trout Meunière with crabmeat for Ryan, and his lady ordered what has to be the ultimate in soup and salad: the crabmeat stuffed avocado with a bowl of turtle soup.

Trout Meunière Amandine

One of the reasons this get-together happened was that Ryan said on the Twitter one day that he had a bad experience the first time he went to Galatoire’s, upstairs as part of a large graduation party. Nola told him no, you really need get the experience of downstairs at lunch. Well, Nola’s mission was a success. I believe Ryan’s opinion of Galatoire’s is now changed.

Brabant Potatoes

Stuffed Avocado with Crabmeat; Turtle Soup

There was a very nice crowd at the restaurant Friday. A lot of regulars were in, judging by the amount of people who the manager greeted by name at the door. One large table was occupied by about 12 people celebrating a birthday. There was more than one birthday because twice during the time we were there the waitstaff dinged on a glass and asked for everyone to sing happy birthday.

Friday hustle & bustle at Galatoire’s

Many in this crowd ended up, like we did, at the Old Absinthe House down the block on Bourbon Street. Nola has written about that adventure, and what it’s like now it’s actually possible to drink absinthe again at the Old Absinthe House.

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9 Responses to A Friday Lunch at Galatoire’s

  1. Moondance on June 14, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Are you trying to kill me?

    I am in a friendly weight loss competition at work, the winner of which gets treated to a spa day by the (big fat) losers, but I am never going to take that prize if you keep whetting my appetite with pics like this.

  2. stacey on June 14, 2008 at 2:09 am

    ya’ll suck. 😉

  3. Lisa on June 14, 2008 at 6:53 am

    Ok, I can’t wait to hear the descriptions of that food!

  4. charlotte on June 14, 2008 at 9:05 am

    I agree with Stacey. *sticks out tongue*

    Really, it looks fab. Who had the soft shell? I loves me some soft shell crab, yeah.

  5. Nola on June 14, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Can we go back tomorrow?

  6. Greta on June 14, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Cleaning drool off keyboard! I am sooo going next time! We need to host one on the Northshore soon!

  7. […] and have said so time and again. For a succulent read of Friday’s foray, read Pete’s post. It was a glorious time. After we finished dining, we were not done imbibing. So after having […]

  8. the cajun on July 4, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    I just stumbled onto your site and loved this – and other – posts, but especially this one. I love Galatoire’s, and it’s on our “must-dine- there list.

    I am returning to NOLA in about 2 weeks for a sorta 50th anniversary reunion. This will be my first trip home in 25 years…last time was to visit family (now gone) and take in the World’s Fair. Yes, that year.

    Thanks so much for bringing back great memories and the great pictures.

  9. Barbara Buoncristiano on May 9, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Experienced the famed Friday lunch with a friend who’s a member of Les Dames d’ Escoffier. It was our last full day before having to return to Manhattan, and the perfect end. Nothing can match it anywhere. I’d fly back in a minute just for their softshells.

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