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Nov 25, 2008 10:31 AM

Galatoire's Etiquette

I'm excited about going to Galatoire's this Friday afternoon--first time for me. I'm planning on hitting the line and waiting like a good fake local, but I thought you all could let me know a little bit about the process, since it looks like it'll be raining that day.

I just sort of want to know how it works. Do I stand in a line outside in the rain? Can I show up pre-opening and put my name on a list? Can I wait upstairs for a table with a cocktail in my hand, and if so, can I order something to keep from getting too hungry while I'm up there? How long should I expect to wait?

I'm really excited, but I'm a little confused, too. Could any of you give me the Reader's Digest FAQ?


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  1. I'll do my best:

    - You won't have to wait outside, since now there's a bar upstairs that acts as a waiting room. They make stiff cocktails, so look out.

    - You can put your name on the list when it opens (around 11, I think) and they'll let you know how long they expect it to be, or if you're planning to eat much later in the day, you can swing by early and tell the maitre'd when you're hoping to sit down, and he can let you know when you should arrive and put your name down. Once your name is on the list, you need to take the table that's given to you, so timing is key.

    - I have never seen anyone order food in the upstairs bar, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Soufflee potatoes and fried eggplant are finger food, and they could probably be brought up to the bar for you, provided you're sitting at the bar.

    What do others think?

    1 Reply
    1. re: HalfShell

      As a matter of clarification, one does have to wait outside until the bar opens which is 1/2 hour before seating. You can put your name on the list and leave but you'd better be back there when it opens up. If you have a preferred table and are first to ask for it, then you are set. If you do not like the first 4 top or deuce or whatever that comes up you can pass on it and assume the next spot on the list. Obviously, larger groups of 8 or 12 or whatever will have to take whatever is cobbled together. As far as rain goes, the immediate front of the restaurant is covered. You can also bring a folding chair, milk carton or whatever to sit upon and I suggest a newspaper or two. I have no idea what Friday after Thanksgiving is like these days--it used to be rather quiet but the event has taken on such cachet that it may be crowded like the Friday before Mardi Gras (for which they now auction the seats for charity). If you can, try to get a table in the back--the larger tables in front are usually "cut-up' groups but this does not mean that there won't be a boisterous mob in the rear. Note how the noise ratchets up in a hurry. I'd suggest being inline by 9:30 at the latest. just because there are, say, five people in line does not mean the place is empty---any of those five could represent a table of twenty.

      Do have a lok at the menu so that you can see what the place is all about but, as has been suggested, consult the waiter at every turn. And watch the ballet of the busboys. For God's sake don't rush.

    2. All I know is, I called them about 10 am one friday a couple months ago. They told me if I got there right then, I could be seated at 2:30. No thanks.

      1. I went on Friday, 11/14/08 around 2:30 PM. They told me there would be a two hour wait so I left. I came back on Saturday, 11/15/08, at 11:15 AM, a little before opening. I was seated at 11:30 and it seemed there were a few other open tables for the hour or so I was there.

        I really enjoyed the food and service, and hope to go back again next time I am in New Orleans.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jkt

          Yeah, Friday and Saturday lunches at Gal's are completely different animals. Friday lunch is THE time to be at Gal's. Saturday is just an ordinary lunch.

        2. As a further clarification if you get there at 11 for a table at 1130 for the Friday after Thanksgiving, it may be tough. Some friends and I go every year (admittedly a larger group than a 2 or 4 top) and this day has become a more popular day each year. But if you need pointers look for two young guys with hangovers the size of a blimp. Come on by and say hello.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Lyonola

            There is no way anyone is going to get in before the afternoon by arriving at 11:00 But there are some Popular Days for which you can get there as late as 10:00 and be OK. Ash Wednesday is a favorite of mine---just ordering a martini and watching people turn green is lots of fun.

            1. re: hazelhurst

              Thanks for all your help, people. The Chow boards are great. But I'd like to get something clear:

              So I show up at 9:30 or 10:00, they open the doors around 11:00-ish, and then i potentially sit and drink for three hours before eating? This is just to clarify, but I'll be faced before I get a table.

              Is that the way it works?

              1. re: hamsoda

                If you are on line in time to get the "first seating" (and I think you are right to be there for 9:00 or 9:30) then you'll have a half-hour in the little bar before you are shown downstairs to your table. You can start eating at 11:30 or you can continue the cocktail party as long as you care to. I recommend getting the goute when you sit down---remoulade and crabmeat maison, oysters en brochette--as something to munch while you are sizing the place up and working with your waiter. Lots of people will just carry on an extended drink-a-thon with snacks throughout the afternoon.

                I like to get remoulade and later an artichocke hollandaise while I am making up my mind. Those two items, in themselves, occupy over an hour.

                1. re: hazelhurst

                  We are going to NOLA this weekend and have to go to Galatoires as usual but it has been a year and I wondering if anyone would let go of a waiter's name?? you gotta have name in order to not look like a newby. but it seems that there are more new faces since Katrina. Thanks.

                  1. re: memphischix

                    The restaurant kept all the old-guard waiters after Katrina and most of the new turks (with the exception of Reynard, who went to Houston and that is Houston's gain) There are always a few "revolving" waiters..more so since the expansion. A waiter you had last year is likely still there.

                    As to "giving out a name" well, it is not necessary to drop a name to have a good meal. The point of "having your own waiter" is that he knows what you like and he knows the pace of your dinner. Moreover, he is a family friend. It is not a master-servant relationship but, of course, each side is in the arrangement for something (food/money) but the fun is is knowing the staff. The place is truly about friends. My thought is that you can go in and talk to the person-at-the-door (not really a Maitre d') and he/she will steer you in the right direction. There are no waiter stations in the place so don't worry about being seating in "Joe's Section" because there is no such thing. I do suggest that you consider the time of day; some older waiters work only lunch and if you linger they will need to hand the table off to someone else. One of the real old-timers has, on occasion, tried to stay past 2:00 or so to serve his tables but it is best to get him paid and let someone else take over and start afresh if you are lingering past the main meal and stretching into dinner hours.

                    1. re: hazelhurst

                      hazelhurst - thanks for your reply- I do want to say with all due respect that I realize the waiter/customer situation is different at Galatoire's. That is a part of the charm. We dress with care before going, we consider the time of day and day of the week. We also want to for brief time be a part of the family, a part of the party. We are not privilaged to live in NOLA full time. Our visit to Galatoire's is high point of our stay and no matter where else we eat be it August or Herbsaint or Bayona or any other of the numerous wonderful places Galatoires is the one we anticipate and remember the most. Asking for a name was not meant to be disrepectful - quite the opposite. a wish to - having already planned our arrival and our attire in order to pass the person at the doors quick "up and down" to not fail at the moment when that person asks - And who would you like?

          2. To hamsoda- So how was your visit to Galatoire's ?

            To hazelhurst - please note my earlier reply to your reply of my question..

            22 Replies
            1. re: memphischix

              Memphischix- Ask for Bryant Sylvester or Richard. Richard is a salty old dog who will more than likely tell you once or twice, "No." Bryant is more business like in his approach but trust me, the guy knows what you want to eat.

              1. re: Lyonola

                Those are both good suggestions. Richard is one of the few who remembers the Old Man and he has lots of good stories. He also has that wonderful gloomy look. We like to sit and complain and have a bad time together. Bryant is bred to the job. His father---also an old timer---was there when I was a boy and then he went to the Roosevelt before coming back thirty years ago. Bryant grew up knowing the place.

                Some of the waiters have become realtively famous, the best example being John Fontenot who has been remarked on this board before. He became the Clown prince when Nelson died. He often gets people he's never seen before who ask for him by name and, thanks to boards such as this one, have some personal details.

                1. re: hazelhurst

                  hazelhurst- Thank you for the extra details. Sounds like you have a significant history there. Would you perhaps be mentioned in the Galatoire's - Biography of a Bistro? any comments on the book?

                  1. re: memphischix

                    When Ken and Marda were working on that book, Gilbert suggested that I give tham some stories but after consulting with my sister we decided that if anyone published our tales it would be us. The problem with Galatoire stories is that there are so many of them. I am, I assure you, no unique stand-out when I claim four generations on both sides in there.

                    1. re: memphischix

                      Forgot to comment on the book. It is a fun chatty history. Similar to the fun book done on Boston's Locke-Ober that was done about thirty years or more ago. It's fun to relive some old memories.

                      The cookbook that Melvin rodrigue did is also very good with some nice little tidbits about various traditions and Mad HAtter parties and such like, to say nothing of the recipes. And it has, on the last page, a fabulous picture of the late, great Louis Lafleur who appears to be in mid-song. He was a wonderful waiter who took care of me about three days before he died. The place was almost empty and he sat down at the table (last one before the left door to the kitchen) and we had a wonderful visit. His sudden death was quite a shock but the funeral was reassuring because it was a great mix of the waiters and regulars and the families. That's just the kind of place Galatoire's is and it is hard to convey that when someone asks what the joint is like.

                      1. re: hazelhurst

                        Thanks so much for sharing. We hope to slide in late on Friday evening- if not will have to go for another time on the weekend. Our friends are arriving earlier than we and will be there for the Friday lunch/afternoon festivities and we are jealous of that. I hope you enjoy many more years at the best place on earth.

                        1. re: memphischix

                          As fun and raucous as Friday is, I think you'll enjoy a Saturday afternoon more, If you start at about 1:30 or 2:00, you can watch the rhythm of the place, It'll be loud, then (maybe) damn near silent at 4:00. You never can tell what things will be like on any given day, but sometimes the place is empty and you can enjoy watching the restaurant at rest---things are still happening but the waiters will be sitting in the back, eating the dinner prepared for staff that day (some of which is really good). Friday is not a day to get to know the place,

                          1. re: hazelhurst

                            I guess we have wandered off the etiquette track but this is so fascinating to me talk with some one with so much history there. I always look a the families and friends gathered around the tables and want to know more.
                            What are your favorites on the menu? I fall in love with the souffle potatoes every time and then we get big eyes and order the Grand Goute . and then we order an entree - somehow we eat it too. I love the Pompano since we never see it in Memphis. I still go into daze when I remember the bread pudding with a glass of cognac that near about put me in a coma with pleasure a few years ago. Oh such anticipation!

                            1. re: memphischix

                              I get into "ruts" and repeat myself, then break off and go back to other favorites. the trout meuniere is a classic, the stuffed eggplant can be fabulous (but some years ago they stopped using the skin, then they did it again, then they didn't. I always check with the waiter first). The canape lorenzo is wonderful. Sometime I go into my meat mode and want lamb chops as an excuse to have bearnaise on the side. Or the sweetbreads. Crabmeat Yvonne is also a great thing and we like to honor the memory of Miss Yvonne by ordering that (with extra garlic).

                              1. re: hazelhurst


                                I have to say thank you for the wonderful insight that you have offered. I kinda' though I knew Galatoire's, because I've dined there since I was a child in the 1950's. I lived in NOLA during the 1970's and dined there some more. Still, you have taught me many things and I greatly appreciate these. That, and the "trip down memory lane." I believe that the OP appreciates your information and I believe that many other diners will, as well.

                                Greatly appreciated,


                                1. re: Bill Hunt


                                  I imagine that we banged into each other when both in our Sunday best and Buster Browns. Surely you remember Mr. Justin and Gabi and Paul...and Jerry the waiter and Lee and Bill Bordelon (Bill could turn a table in under an hour and the diners never knew it). And the crisp new money from The Whitney, and the lights dimming due to the direct current electricity that serviced the place into the 1980's. It is a magical place; more than one person has remarked that, when you are within those four walls, nothing can go wrong and all is right with the world.

                                  1. re: hazelhurst

                                    The names have long since left my feeble memory. I do not even recall my mom's usual favorite server.

                                    In my later years, I was too young to really be part of the scene, but even then loved the "dance." This was both from the waitstaff and also from the patrons, as they promenaded in and surveyed the room, making sure that everyone saw them, too. I watched Maurice E. “Moon” Landrieu switch chairs three times, just so more people could see him, when they entered. I appreciated it more as a child, and then as an older adult. There were too many years, that I was just there for the food and not paying close enough attention to the history, and the full ambiance. Now, I regret being so shallow, but hey, I was young and knew everything!

                                    However, I remember the lights in a big way. It became a bit of a joke with my wife and me, when lights would dip, while we were dining elsewhere. I still get a nod from her, even today.

                                    If our paths did cross, I hope that I tipped my hat to you!

                                    Thanks for the memories,


                                    PS just purchased every DVD that WYES had, starting with "The Forgotten Restaurants of New Orleans." Talk about a real trip down "memory lane." I gave a set to a good friend, who is from just outside of New Orleans, but like me, grew up going to the City a lot.

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt


                                      Regarding your comment about "being seen", well hell it is hard NOT to be seen. Especially with the old front door . A grand entrance was possible (and there are wonderful memories of mine about folks appearing at that vestibule).

                                      You were not were young. So, too, was I. I recall many tiny details in the place from my nonage...I grew to learn that the staff and family were indulgent, and always hospitable and welcoming. As I have said before is IS family and anyone is welcome to join. My lament is that some people just "eat" and do not savor. Malheuresment.

                                      1. re: hazelhurst

                                        Thank you. I like your description of the "parade," better than I do mine!


                                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                                        I just stumbled onto this thread. We live in Virginia but somehow manage to get to NOLA every few years, but it has been too long. After reading this, I am ready to go. We used to have Louis as our waiter. He introduced us to souffle potatoes one long afternoon. It was not Friday so he ended up sitting with us for over an hour. He used to work at a wonderful restaurant across the river in Gretna that was the name of the owner, but I cannot remember it and it is long closed.

                                          1. re: hazelhurst

                                            You beat me to the punch, and by two full days! How come I missed this thread with a new reply. Yes, Warren LeRuth.

                                            Jwas, I understand. Even when we've just gotten back, it seems "too long ago." That's why we go back, whenever possible.

                                            Maybe some day, we'll get a full month back in NOLA, just to dine.


                                            1. re: hazelhurst

                                              Thanks for the reminder about LeRuth's. Do you know if Louis is still at Galatoire's

                                              1. re: jwas

                                                Louis died, suddenly, a couple of years ago.

                                                1. re: hazelhurst

                                                  We are sorry to hear that. His Cajun wit and professionalism will be missed. Guess we will have to find a new Galatoire's waiter.

                                                  1. re: jwas

                                                    Try Homer---he and Louis were brothers-in-law. You can romp down memory lane. Homer is from Ville Platte, like half the other waiters in there.

                      2. re: Lyonola

                        Lyonola - Thank you so much! Very kind of you. I thought we had a Richard once- haven't seen him since. but he was very young and this was soon AK he did direct us to the Carousel Bar for a Ramos Gin Fizz which I had been seeking. I love the old timers.