Galatoire's, New Orleans.
The award-winning NoLA staple is mediocrity coasting on familiarity. I probably would've received better service at the strip club I accidentally entered than I did at dinner.
The food isn't always all that great at expensive, award-winning fine dining restaurants. Passable, sure, but I've had better food at some holes-in-the-wall and unrecognized restaurants than the Michelin-starred and recommended places I've visited (looking at you, Bernardin.) I think a lot of the patrons know this, but you're not just going for the food; you're going for the atmosphere and the service. Consistent hospitality is a staple of fine dining--it's one of the justifications for the price tags. My server at Galatoire's didn't get the memo. We'll call her Mirabelle for the sake of this review, because it's so far from her real name that no one will be able to identify her.
If you're reading this, you probably know me, which means you know that I've been temperate since before #SoberCurious was a trend. MaacahEats--Maacah doesn't drink. But, while I don't drink alcohol, I'm an avid sugar addict who will design and demolish a mocktail in a hot minute. I know from extensive experience that it's not unrealistic to ask for virgin versions of traditional drinks like Pimms, Old Fashioneds, Palomas, etc--a good bartender will always understand the assignment. The hostess at Herons in North Carolina did not miss a beat when I turned down her offer of complimentary champagne--without a stutter, she asked, "would you like a bottle of our sparkling cider?" Absolutely. In this day and age, a server should be prepared to accommodate patrons who don't drink. Mirabelle and I were not off to a great start when she insisted that there was no way I could get a virgin Pimm's cup--a drink for which there are multiple non-alcoholic recipes that use ginger beer as the base. The bartenders at both Arnaud's and Mr. B's Bistro understood the nonalcoholic assignment but, back at Galatoire's, water it was.
After making quick work of the unseasoned escargot, I waited an eternity for Mirabelle to ask what I wanted for my next course. I kid you not, it seemed like every other server and staff member checked on me except for Mirabelle. At one point, when a passing male server teased that I wasn't done until I'd dipped all of my bread into the pool of melted butter the escargots were served in, I joked, "Is that why Mirabelle hasn't come by again? She's waiting for me to finish this bowl of butter?"
The two times I needed something, I had to flag down a different server because waiting for my own was fruitless. When I was done with my entree, I ordered dessert from a passing server who casually asked if I was enjoying my meal.
Halfway through the key lime tart (a mostly whipped confection that was heavy on the cream and light on the lime), Mirabelle slapped my bill down. To remind you, I was at Galatoire's, not an Applebee's.
"Guess I'm done here." I said to myself, even though enough of my friends can confirm that my first dessert order is not usually my last. I will eat my way through a dessert menu in a heartbeat--if I can request two desserts at The Inn and Bernardin, no one is safe.
At Galatoire's, I left the half-eaten tart, paid Mirabelle a tip she didn't deserve, and left to explore the quarter on a beautiful night. Joe had recommended I check out 21st Amendment Bar, which I missed by one door that led me into the strip club where I'd probably have received better service than I'd received from Mirabelle at dinner.
Like many other legacy fine dining restaurants I've visited, the food at Galatoire's is fine. Simply passable. The host Joe and most of his staff are great. My specific server was not--and, no, I didn't complain about her while I was there, because she was already the only server in the entire restaurant not wearing a mask, and I honestly didn't want to risk something worse ending up in my food because I'd pointed it out. Golden rule: we don't piss off the people who handle our food.
Galatoire's: I'm neither likely to return nor recommend it.