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Was it a mistake to follow the concierge's suggestion of the Gumbo Shop?

MSK May 20, 2008 04:30 PM

We were in NO for only 3 nights and as we do in every area we explore, wanted to try everything unique to Cajun cuisine. Beignets, Po Boys, Mufalleta and of course Gumbo, Etouffee and Jambalaya.

Our first night at NOLA was quite good and fun but very filling and I assume more stylized. We knew our last night would be at a hosted dinner in a private room at Arnaud's which would be equally so. We were concern that if we honored our res. at Restaurant August, it would be just too much (both $$ and richness of food) and we would be over the top.

I asked the hotel concierge for recommendations for a casual location with authentic regional cuisine.She sent us over to the Gumbo Shop. It was a fun and reasonably priced but I'm not 100% sure it was the best of true NO fare. Was this just a touristy choice? Am I yet to have experienced the best in Cajun cooking?

I know it's after the fact but I'd be interested in a locals opinion if we, given these parameters, should have gone elsewhere?

  1. f
    fryguy Jun 5, 2008 01:18 PM

    I think The Gumbo Shop is very good for what it is. It is a mix of locals and tourists. Very casual, as you witnessed, but pretty good. I think their gumbos are decent, and they have some traditional dishes. For many years, we've celebrated Christmas by going to mass at the Cathedral on Christmas Eve, then hurrying over to wait in line at The Gumbo Shop for their Revellion dinner. While it certainly isn't the best restaurant in the city, I don't think you were steered badly.

    1. MSK May 30, 2008 12:33 PM

      In general, my impression of the Gumbo Shop was pretty much as explained here. I must not have been very impressed or I would not have posted the question here at all. The dishes were good but not inspired. I did not sense pride in the waitstaff in what was being offered.The whole routine there seemed rote and "formula." But....I can't say it was bad.

      When you only have a few nights in a food inspired location, you hate to waste a meal.

      Re: The question of Concierges

      I've never completely trusted that they had my interest at heart. I've been advised that you can get better, non-partial tips from the Bell Staff.

      I do think there is a level of Professional Concierge at the very finest hotels in the bigger cities who don't fall into this mold however. Yes, they get perks, kickbacks and behind the scene deals but they deal with a wealthy clientèlle whom are often "regulars" and they don't risk "p.......ing" them off with bad recommendations. Wheeling and dealing is also how they are able to obtain sought after reservations, hard to get tickets, etc.

      I am not their $$ target but, never-the-less, they are usually willing to share their info anyway. Many travel experts say that you are welcome to use Concierge in hotels even if you are not staying there.

      We were staying at one of the nicer hotels in the area but should have sensed that this individual, although quite professional in attitude, was not of this caliber.

      Lastly, I thought I would share an article from the SF Chronicle from a few years back...sort of "A day in the life of a Concierge"

      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

      I also found the book "Hotel Babylon" to be an amusing behind the scenes insight into the position. (I now see that it has been turned into a BBC TV show in the UK...hope it's funny, there's probably lots of good material there).

      2 Replies
      1. re: MSK
        Bill Hunt May 30, 2008 08:17 PM

        Good article in the Chronicle. I use the service of the concierge (or my AMEX "concierge") all of the time. Usually, I do my homework on CH, but there are always those moments, when wife calls from a meeting, and asks me go get a table for 13, that night, at Commander's Palace, during Sugar Bowl ! Stuff like that happens. I have to rely on MY network of folk, to make it happen.

        If the concierge shares local knowledge, or contacts, I tip liberally. Now, if I'm looking for Superbowl tickets, I have another level of sources, that I tap into.

        Thanks for sharing the URL.

        Hunt

        1. re: MSK
          j
          JazzyB May 31, 2008 06:10 AM

          Hotel Babylon is broadcast on BBC America. It is quite entertaining. Unfortunately I don't know when the new season begins.

        2. the queen May 26, 2008 06:05 AM

          I never follow the concierge's advice, I feel that they get paid off.
          As for the Gumbo Shop, I think you can do a lot better.

          8 Replies
          1. re: the queen
            k
            kevin May 26, 2008 11:15 AM

            the funny thing is the concierge usually doesn't know unless they are a true classic concierge at the top of her/his game.

            Also, it kind of sucks when you ask for a recommendation and then get a crappy rec and then you have to tip later on for the rec.

            at the same, gumbo shop is not terrible.

            1. re: kevin
              Bill Hunt May 26, 2008 08:37 PM

              Kevin,

              Good observation. Far too many, on any concierge staff, know only what they have been told. Few are really into food, or wine, and do not sample their recs.

              On the SW board, where I spend most of my time, there is one concierge, who always is doing research on the dining spots, and is often there asking for good CH recs. for certain guests.

              I like finding those, and tip accordingly, but they are few, and very far between.

              As for the OP's question, I also agree that the Gumbo Shop is good, but not the best possible. No bad rec., just not the best.

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt
                t
                Tonto May 28, 2008 07:01 PM

                I do follow food and what is happening in the city in terms of entertainment etc. and can't get a job as a Concierge to save my life. I know and frequent all the restaurants and the chefs and have a fair idea what to order if asked. Go figure.

                1. re: Tonto
                  Bill Hunt May 28, 2008 07:58 PM

                  Tonto,

                  Judging by the comments, that I attribute to you, on this board, I'd say that you would be exactly what any high-end lodge needs, as a concierge. If only I had any pull with any innkeeper, you'd be hired at a great salary, in a NY-second.

                  Since we travel so much, I often wonder *where* some of the concierges come from. I also wonder if some have *ever* had a meal in a local restaurant. When I find a good one, the tips flow!

                  It is about much more than parroting the recs. in "Where" magazine, or from the latest Zagut, or similar, booklet. It's about knowing the cuisine, the chefs, the service, and all aspects of the restaurants. Ya' gotta' be ON the street and actually doing this stuff, if you're gonna' be any good.

                  My vote's for you!

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                    t
                    Tonto May 29, 2008 12:33 PM

                    Thank you so much Bill Hunt. I think you would be a fun dinner partner.

                    1. re: Tonto
                      Bill Hunt May 29, 2008 07:52 PM

                      Nah, I'd carp about the stemware! [Grin]

                      Hunt

                    2. re: Bill Hunt
                      j
                      JazzyB May 30, 2008 04:45 AM

                      I don't imagine a concierge's salary permits him to dine/drink around enough to allow him to make recommenadations from personal experience. I've heard the (CP) Brennans give their best waitstaff a dining allowance to experience fine dining in other NOLA restaurants, thereby letting them experience first hand what is expected as a customer in this arena. Perhaps highend hotels should do the same for their concierges.

                      1. re: JazzyB
                        edible complex May 30, 2008 05:46 AM

                        most venues comp local concierge associations and host their meetings so they can experience first hand. a friend was a concierge at a major french quarter hotel; everywhere we went, he got comped w/o asking. he was always being sent certificates, tickets and invitations...it is best to have first hand knowledge for credibility and longevity.

            2. N.O.Food May 20, 2008 08:12 PM

              You could have found a less touristy spot, but if you enjoyed the food, who cares? Furthermore, if you ask someone who has "the best in Cajun cooking" around here, you'll get a thousand different answers - especially if you ask who has the best gumbo. Some might even say the Gumbo Shop has the best gumbo - you never know.

              What's more, you need to look outside of New Orleans for the best Cajun cooking - you won't find that here. When you're in New Orleans next time, give August a shot. It's definitely not cajun and only somewhat creole, but you might have a life altering meal there.

              1 Reply
              1. re: N.O.Food
                s
                Shiloh May 21, 2008 12:20 PM

                Pretty sure this poster means "New Orleans food" when he says Cajun. Pretty sure that's a common misconception around the country. A muffaletta certainly isn't Cajun, nor is a poboy.

                Most people would agree that you can't find ample good Cajun food in NO, but you can find the best creole food, and you can find the best New Orleans food, believe it or not.

                As far as New Orleans food goes, what you found at Gumbo Shop was probably pretty middle of the road. Nowhere near the best and certainly, as someone else mentioned, nowhere near the worst.

              2. speyerer May 20, 2008 05:08 PM

                Type "Gumbo Shop" in the Chowhound search field and you will see that the reviews are mixed. Some love the place others would never eat there again.
                Here is a review by a New Orleans restaurant critic who gives the place a fair shake.
                http://www.nomenu.com/Subscriber/Arch...
                Believe me you could have done a lot worst.

                2 Replies
                1. re: speyerer
                  z
                  ZydecoPlayer May 20, 2008 09:19 PM

                  Good Cajun food is virtually non-existent in New Orleans. Ask pretty much anyone from Lafayette or Carencro or Breaux Bridge who comes here. About the best they can say about anyplace is that it's "pretty good for New Orleans."

                  1. re: ZydecoPlayer
                    k
                    kevin May 20, 2008 11:50 PM

                    I'm not at all the biggest fan but what about Cochon for sort of Cajun.

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