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Oct 28, 2007 01:21 PM

The Pelican Club is a bizarre restaurant

Let me first say that I am very forgiving when it comes to service level in New Orleans. My experience has been that service in New Orleans restaurants and hotels, while it can be very good, generally is not at the level found in many other major cities. (Please don't flame me. I recognize this is a gross generalization and that many restaurants provide excellent service.) And although the problem is not nearly as bad as it was a year ago, the city still suffers from a post-Katrina shortage of help. That said, every place seems, for the most part, to have been able to get its act together except for the Pelican Club.

The last time I ate at the Pelican Club was in late April, when I found myself in the Quarter at dinner time without reservations. A friend and I ended up wandering in to the Pelican Club and ate at the bar. I remember clearly that although the bartender was very enthusiastic, he was an amateur, botching both drink and food orders.

Last night I found myself in a similar situation: I was in the Quarter around 8:30 without dinner reserations. We had lunched at Coop's, so that was out. We wandered by Irene's, where the wait was 90 minutes. We stuck our head into Stella, where they could not have been more apologetic that they couldn't seat us, even though we didn't have a reservation. So I quickly logged on to opentable and found we could get a reservation to be seated right away at the Pelican Club. (That should tell you something right there, when every other place is booked to capacity and they could seat us right away.)

We walked over, arriving at 8:35. I walked up to the hostess and told her I had an 8:45 reservation. She told me we were early and asked if we could wait to be seated until our reservation time. Now normally that would seem like a reasonable request, but there were plenty of empty tables and seemingly no one waiting for them. I mentioned that we had just passed by a vacant table for two outside and asked if we could be seated at it. She responded that the outdoor seating was very limited. I said I understood, but reiterated that there was a vacant table and asked, if it was not being held for someone else, whether we could be seated there. She said she would check, walked outside, and then came back in and said we could have it. Why was that so hard?

So we were seated at the table and were helped by two very nice and very enthusiastic young waiters. I asked for a wine list, which took awhile because apparently there is a shortage of wine lists. Seriously. They finally brought one and I chose a bottle. They brought to the table an entirely different bottle. (It wasn't even close!) When I pointed it out, the waiter apologized profusely and took it away, only to have the other waiter bring it back, telling us that they were out of what we ordered. Now I understand that places run out, and I don't mind if they want to suggest something different, but what they brought over was just a completely different wine, like they had just picked another random bottle (which I think is what they did). I got the wine list back and ordered another bottle, which they had in stock. The wine, a zinfandel, was served cold. It certainly seemed that it had been refrigerated.

As for the food, I ordered a steamed and butterflied lobster served with scallops and shrimp. It was good, but not as good as it should have been. My friend's salmon was overcooked and dry.

Oh, and when I got home, I found an email from opentable indicating that my reservation had been cancelled. Apparently the hostess, instead of checking us in for our reservation, cancelled it instead, depriving me of my 100 opentable points! (Yes, it's only $1, but it's annoying, and I suspect it means that the restaurant doesn't have to pay opentable for my reservation.)

Anyone know why this place still exists?

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  1. I had a mediocre meal and bad service there myself. Some people like it, though it seems really hit and miss from reviews. At those prices, I don't think its fair to give a pass for inconsistency.

    You should contact Opentable for your points, they have a contact form on their website for mistake cancellations and nonrewards.

    1. This is so sad. How long will the restaurants ride the wave of Katrina? This is a self defeating practice. Fewer tourists/locals dining at a restaurant results less income which results lower paid staff which results in inexperienced staff which results in poorer service which results in fewer diners. The food/service industry in New Orleans can no longer make its money on reputation alone. They have to make their money the old fashioned way...they have to earn it.

      7 Replies
      1. re: State St.

        I really don't think they're riding the wave of Katrina. Other than the fact that the hostess was a dingbat, everyone else was friendly and enthusiastic, which suggests to me that either (1) they're not attracting experienced staff for some reason and/or (2) they're not training their staff appropriately. But even putting aside the service issues, the food's not up to snuff either. And no other top restaurant in New Orleans that I've been to is suffering from these same problems.

        BTW, I sent an email to opentable and got my 100 points!

        1. re: Blumie

          Not to highjack a thread, Blumie, but your post reminded me of a discussion my wife and I were having several weeks ago: Post K, we saw a group of new retaurants in Nola. However, many have struggled or not made it. Jackson and Nardo's have closed, Alberta brought in a partner, Table One has changed it's concept. Cochon's been a huge hit, but Donald Link's name (and the fact that he smartly exploited an underserved food niche) gave it a leg up. The notable exception, as far as I can tell, is Iris (which I think is a terrific restaurant). If they are struggling, I haven't heard yet. So the question is a two-parter: 1) Did these establishments satiate the dining appetite of New Orleanians until the big boys (Commander's, et. al.) returned and we locals promptly took ourselves and our dollars back to our familiar haunts? 2) Are we locals lazy diners, willing to forgive far too much and rewarding mediocrity in well-branded restaurants at the expense of new talent? Thoughts?

          1. re: jeffchow

            I just thought you might be interested to know that Nardos did not close becasue they were struggling, the owner deiced to go into a different venture. she now is apart of the Asian Cajun on Oak street. If locals were wating at these smaller restaurants waiting for the big places to reopen, I feel sory for them. I think the smaller restaurants, while the service may suffer a little, I find that the foos is usually way better. I had lunch at the mighty commanders three moths ago and it was the worst experiance I have had in a long time.

            1. re: localfoodie

              Thanks for setting me straight on Nardo's. I agree with you on the merits of the smaller places, and I think it's important that we reward great new places and not give a pass to an old-line institution, forgiving mediocre food and/or service. I would also agree with Blumie that truly great service is rare in NOLA restaurants.

              1. re: jeffchow

                I agree about the service to an extent, but think this is slightly overblown. I have had very good to great service at Brigtsens, Stella, Bayona, Upperline, Gautreau's, August, Peristyle, Ralph's, Petite Grocery, etc. In fact, I have suffered through more meals where the service fails to meet the food in NYC, Boston, LA, Miami, etc. than New Orleans. Even the more casual restaurants in the city have better service than on par restaurants in many other places.

                1. re: mikek

                  Yeah, I'm reluctant to take my generalization about service in NOLA too far. I've received great service at many of the same restaurants as you. Some of it has been more "New Orleans style" than you'd find in other cities, but of course that often is more of a good thing than it is a bad thing!

                  1. re: Blumie

                    I agree, I would rather have an affable and friendly waitstaff than some formal and stuffy staff that does not make me feel comfortable in my dining experience.

      2. I had been looking forward to dining at The Pelican Club, on our last trip, but took them off the list, because of posts to CH. Now, I'm glad that I did.

        As for the "seating," too many restaurants, world-wide, like to make patrons wait. They seem to think that it adds "something" to the dining experience. In some "chains," it is actually part of the corp. plan to sell more drinks and appetizers. That said, depending on the availability of wait-staff, I've seen empty tables, that were not in use, because of short-staffing. Not sure if that figured into the equation, but is a thought.

        As for the Zin, you are lucky. In too many places (and my beloved NOLA is one), the reds are often served hot and the whites near freezing. At least with a cooler bottle, one can warm it up, by cupping the bowl of the glass in their hands - like I have to do with most whites, though some are cold enough to give one frostbite!

        With regards to the substitution, you should have been notified, with perhaps a "suggestion," as to the possible replacement. Too many wait-staffs are just not trained in wine service.

        AND, what a bogus deal with the OpenTable reservations. Bad move (especially as it costs them little, to nothing) that promotes ill-will.

        Sorry to hear of your experience,

        2 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Back in the early 90's, my wife and I had a magical time at the Pelican Club the first time we went there. It was around 6:30 PM, pouring down rain, and we entered looking like two drowned rats with soaking wet shorts and sandals. The bartender proceeded to set up a complete service with white table cloth in the bar area where we were then served an absolutely marvelous meal (this was a special menu to commemorate their 5th anniversary). It was always our favorite restaurant to go to in New Orleans for years.

          Then, about seven years ago, I was served spoiled fish, and the lobster bisque was also long past its prime. Okay, every restaurant can have an off night. The next time we ate there, the waiters were obviously just going through the motions and the food was okay, but nothing to write home about. The final straw was when my wife was served a well done filet.

          We have not been back since. Stella! is now our go to restaurant whenever we are in New Orleans.

          1. re: pterostyrax

            Considering how fickle diners can be, it is surprising that a noted restaurant would just let things go. Based on much earlier reviews (here, and elsewhere), we had planned on dining there, but about that time, I saw a lot of negative reviews from folk, whose comments I hold dear. Yeah, NOLA has some high standards, but if one is not ready to keep up with them, they just need to shutter the place and go into another line of work. It's sad, but I guess that it does happen for a myriad of reasons.

            Maybe it's not too late and a shakeup in management can ressurect the Pelican Club.


        2. I went there a few months ago and the service was just horrendous. I ordered a martini and it was served to me in what looked like a highball glass (!?). Then an older couple came in right behind me and each ordered one as well. Theirs were served properly in a martini glass.Their martinis are NOT cheap, so I expected it to be served to me properly. The staff were talking loudly about work problems, were not attentive at all, etc. It was just very unprofessional. I had never been there before, but I can assure you that I will never go back.