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Disappointment at Lilette

My wife and I had a great trip down last weekend -- our second since Katrina. Had great meals at Cochon, Galatoire's, Brigtsen's, Stella! and Commanders Palace. Our only disappointment was at Lilette, where we had not been before and will not be again.

We had a 1:00 pm reservation. Were seated right on time by a sullen hostess who did not smile for the entire hour and a half we were there. Now that I think about it, our waiter never smiled either. The food was good, but the service was atrocious. I am not impatient -- my wife gets impatient with me (and did during this meal) because I am overly patient with servers -- but this was ridiculous. Took many minutes for the waiter to acknowledge we were there. He was obviously uninterested in being there himself. Once we finally did order we had to flag him down to get water glasses refilled. He brought bread and butter, but never offered any more. Appetizers were served fairly quickly, but after those plates were removed it was at least twenty minutes before the main courses arrived.

It was odd -- there were only six or seven other tables filled at this time on a Saturday afternoon. There were at least four, maybe five, waiters. It seemed that all the tables were between courses when we were and there were no waiters to be seen. Maybe they were all out back smoking. At any rate, all of a sudden every table was being served entrees at the same time. Then our waiter disappeared for another long period of time. He finally removed our plates and was gone again. I finally got his attention and asked for dessert menus, which were promptly delivered. Then for fifteen minutes we waited for him to come back. During that time he went at least five times to a table that obviously were regulars and during that time brought them desserts and coffee, which they finished by the time he finally came back to our table. By then we did not want dessert and did not want to stay there any longer. He did bring the check quickly, picked up my credit card promptly and brought back the receipt immediately. We weren't the only ones who were ready for us to leave.

Maybe it was just a bad day. I had high hopes when I arrived based on the glowing reports here. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for us. We aren't able to get down there very often. It's a seven hour drive with no good flight connections. When we do have an opportunity to go down it won't be to try this place. There are just too many great places to eat to give this one a second try.

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  1. I have to tell you that your complaint seems to be about service not food. Please, of all the things that can not be helped ,is the lack of experienced wait staff since the city's diaspora, but that should not be a black mark for the person putting out the food.
    I love the restaurant and what ever you feel now, they are worth another try. Times are still tough for restaurants.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Tonto

      You are absolutely right that service, not food, is my complaint. The food was generally good. However, if food were the only element of dining out, they could just set it outside the kitchen and I could pick it up, take it to my table and eat it. When you are paying upwards of $100 for two for lunch, there must be more than food.

      I know Katrina was hard on the restaurant industry, but I went to six top shelf restaurants last weekend and Lilette was the only one where service was poor. Frankly, after a year and a half, this excuse is beginning to wear thin. The restaurant business there is highly competitive. The places that meet expectations stay. Those that do not die.

      1. re: ddavis

        You may think this excuse is wearing thin, but it is still a fact. And as a matter of fact the restaurant business has made a better come back than any single service in the city. Some restaurants have more of a bankroll and were able to keep their old employees paid until they were able to reestablish business again. Not true for all. The cost of living here is double if not more and affordable housing is still the biggest problem for restaurants employees. Still for those prices you should have better service, that is a given.

        1. re: Tonto

          "Please, of all the things that can not be helped ,is the lack of experienced wait staff since the city's diaspora, ....Times are still tough for restaurants."

          Speaking as an experienced server in New Orleans I would also like to let everyone know how much extra strain we are under. Most restaurants in New Orleans are VERY short staffed, which means I'm working several doubles a week with only one day off. Sometimes, like during Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest, and when very large conventions are in town we don't even get a day off. That's not to say I'm not happy that we are busy, because I'm VERY happy and we WANT your business, but keep in mind we are very tired and when we are this exhausted, we don't perform at our best. As someone else has mentioned, yes, less experienced servers are working the lunch shifts. This is because the experienced servers know there is more money to be made at night. Back of the house is feeling the pressure too. Cooks are not paid much, and only those who truly love food are serious about there jobs. The turn over rate back of house is crazy. Every few weeks restaurants are training someone new.
          "You may think this excuse is wearing thin, but it is still a fact."
          Tonto is right, just look around. You see help wanted signs everywhere you look. I've recived job offers from places I would have never dreamed. Not because I'm not experienced enough for the job, but because these positions would have never been opened before the storm.. Places like Galatoire's and Antoine's where the waitstaff never leave their coveted positions.
          Human resourses hands are tied because they need bodies to give the experienced workes some relief.

          And to ddavis I'm sorry for your poor service. I hope you made a complaint to the managemet while you were there. Your service was unacceptable and should and it should be addressed.
          I do suggest patrons who have any problems, be it food or service please let someone know right away. If you are unhappy then we sould at leat be given a chance to fix the problem. Most inexperienced servers don't know how to read their guest, so if no one complains, they think they are doing a fine job. Experienced servers can usually tell if a guest is unhappy and will find a way to fix the problem. Please don't ASSUME we know that there is a problem.

          1. re: NolaRola

            Then lower prices to reflect the poor service and food until the problems are fixed. If you cannot operate at your correct level, do not charge premium prices for subpar food and service. The excuses are very old.

      2. re: Tonto

        In response to the idea that service has suffered since the storm. I do agree there is a lack of proffesional servers in an area encomppassed by restaurants that require their services. However I have eaten at Lillite before the storm, and the service was just as bad. I experianced the same problems. To make things worse I was sitting at the bar waiting for my party and I was really excited that their special drink was the bellini made with fresh imported peaches so I inquired to the bartender his responce was "they are very exspensive" insinuating that I appeared to young to be able to afford such a drink, I reposnded by asking for two. Then the waiters took at least 15 min to acknowledge that we had been seated. The food was great and we haopoened to be friends with on of the cooks. They never presented a wine list and looked like they were forced to be there. The experiance was not pleseant. I have worked in restaurants for a long time so I give respect to all that work day to day trying to please all the dinners in this city, but I swore I would never go back there based on the service we had received there.

      3. We gave up on Lilette too. The service was as you described, but the dishes we tried there were all very mediocre.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MIKELOCK34

          I've never had bad service there, but I'm not a regular b/c I too am uninspired by the food. It's a nice little room, warm w/good vibes, but the food never excites me much.

        2. I've not been to Lilette for lunch, and so cannot comment on that directly, but the dinner I had there in October 2006 was stunning, and the service was excellent.

          As you say, "Maybe it was just a bad day . . . " Maybe they deserve another chance.

          Then again, you said you had a great meal at Stella! -- and my wife and I absolutely HATED it . . . both the meal itself, which would be generously described as "weak," and the service, which was truly horrid. Every restaurant can have an "off" night -- and I would like to think, having worked in and with many restaurants, I am usually pretty good about cutting the restaurant (kitchen or floor) some slack -- but I've little desire to ever go back to Stella!, and so I can understand your not wanting to . . .

          3 Replies
          1. re: zin1953

            That's odd, because I recently had the best lunch of my life at Lilette. Service was fine, and the food blew me away.

            On another note, Stella! is, in my opinion, the best restaurant in the city. But that's a different topic.

            1. re: mikemill

              i think stella is a great place, but best in the city?. the lack of local and regional seafoods and meats at stella is a little annoying. w/ such a great bounty of ingredients it confuses me the way everything is flown in from half way across the world. it inflates prices, which cuts out a whole demographic of diners. it shows a severe lack of sustainability and disregard for a more "green" cooking. with that being said the pastry chef is progressive and amazing.

              1. re: hartly

                While I do appreciate restuarants that use local ingredients, sometimes people get tired or bored of regional foods and want something different. I love Stella's creative menu and think there food is impeccably executed.

                While demographics are things to some places consider, restaurants aren't obligated to try lower their prices to include everyone. If the food is worth it, people will pay; and if not, they'll adjust their prices or lose money. Furthermore, while sustainability is a valiant goal, restaurants are not obligated to pursue that either.

                I think Stella does a fantastic job of utilizing both global and local ingredients in creating unique dishes.

          2. This is kindof a tangent because I don't only mean Lilette, but does anyone else feel that lunch in New Orleans has been more hit-or-miss than dinner? I've gotten the feeling that a lot of the places that have had to completely re-staff are training new waitstaff during the lunch service.

            It is still hugely improved in the past months, though -- last summer I was served by several waiters who seemed like they were on drugs etc., and I haven't had service *that* bad in a long time.

            1. Here's all you need to know about the state of service in NO: I have recently seen "Now Hirirng" and "Help Wanted" BANNERS--not just small signs--on the exteriors of Commander's Palace and Brennan's. Absolutely, positively unthinkable before 829.

              6 Replies
              1. re: lowergardendistrict

                Restaurants in every city have always had problems with staffing. Commander's has always been advertising for staff, including using banners, since before the storm. Where do you think that they got their staff before the storm? "Unthinkable?" That is ridiculous. The restaurants in New Orleans have always had staffing problems. Mediocre food and service has always been a trademark of New Orleans restaurants, the storm did not create that. The excuses are old. Another revelation, restaurants in New Orleans are always busy for Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, Essence Festival, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, conventions, and on and on. That is not being caused by the storm either. Stop with the excuses. The city is still a mess, but that is not what is causing the problems with pooor food and service in the restaurants.

                1. re: MIKELOCK34

                  "Mediocre food and service has always been a trademark of New Orleans restaurants..."

                  speaking of "ridiculous", just my $0.20 (adjusted for inflation).

                  1. re: PolarBear

                    This is shocking to me that there is a consensus that service is notoriously bad in New Orleans and the latest that the food is mediocre. What are we being compared to I would like to know?

                    1. re: Tonto

                      DDavis, from where are you coming down here?

                      I'd say I think Lilette serves a really nice lunch. The service I receive at the lunch hour has always been more than adequate.

                      1. re: stlmark

                        I live in Tyler, Texas. Not sure what difference that makes. At any rate, I'm glad your experience at Lilette has been better than mine. The only experience I have to report on is my own and it was as described above.

                        BUT, I am not one of those to whom Tonto refers who think that "service is notoriously bad in New Orleans" or that "the food is mediocre." On our recent weekend there we had five excellent meals at Cochon, Galatoire's, Brigtsen's, Stella! and Commander's Palace. I posted reports of all those meals. We had good service and excellent food at those five restaurants. The only place we had a disappointing experience was at Lilette.

                      2. re: Tonto

                        Hope it's not New York, because I'm sick of everyone thinking they have the best service. Read the Manhattan board...you will find just as many complaints about service in top notch stops all over the island.
                        And no one would ever try to compare an establishment in Nola to Per Se.