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Thoughts on Emeril's and Service in New Orleans

mcristy Jan 20, 2011 10:06 AM

I can't say I was ever a huge fan of Emeril. Maybe it was the size of his empire or the restaurant with the same name I can find at home in Miami, but it wasn't until I visited Delmonico's for my boyfriend's graduation party that I began to change my mind. When previously mentioned boyfriend returned to New Orleans for a job interview, I think it was the dinner I took him to at Emeril's that sealed his moving back to the Big Easy, no matter how adamantly he insists it was the job.

It really stands alone as one of the best meals I've enjoyed in the city. The restaurant is beautiful and modern, foretelling of the service inside.

The barbecue shrimp was delicious
The drum he had was perfect
The venison sausage was great
and everything else I put in my mouth seemed to follow that general theme of delicious

What I really remember however, after the bottle and a half of wine, was the service. Our waiter was young and funny. He gave great recommendations and found us a delicious bottle of wine, exemplifying something that is so integral to New Orleans. It's service. I must however mention that this was not a good ole boy with Louisiana charm, he was from San Juan. At the end of this long ramble I guess this is what I'm getting to, what is it about New Orleans that creates such driving charm and desire to please in the restaurant industry?

I understand that many of you must think this is foolish, because obviously the hospitality industry should be in its essence hospitable. But I can assure you that this is not the case in much of the country, most notably my hometown of miami.

So what do you think it is? Could it be the water? I'm just wondering what it is about this place that insists on making every meal so enjoyable, and it makes me want to stay for dinner.

Emeril's Restaurant
800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

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  1. l
    Littleman Jan 20, 2011 11:24 AM

    Emeril runs a great company by surrounding himself with great people. The tall nice looking manager has a lot to do with Delmonico's service. I met him when he was a waiter at Emeril's. Delmonico's does not get a lot of love here but I think it's one of NOLA best restaurants. I celebrated a birthday there last year and NY's even the next night too. Good food, good wine and good service.

    Emeril is opening a new restaurant in Charlotte, NC soon by the way.

    Emeril's Restaurant
    800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

    1. c
      collardman Jan 20, 2011 11:28 AM

      I'm not sure. First it is a restaurant city a convention city and a tourist city so it will draw pros in the service industry. But many other cities fit that discription.

      Part of it may be the Europeon vibe and the fact that the personality of the New Orleans people is generally warm and welcoming. The good restaurants can pick and train staff trying to stay with that feeling.

      People who come to New Orleans and get that, frequently stay, and they can make a good living in restaurants like Emeril's. It is a good town for the service industry in that there are so many godd places to work and to party in a generally compact area. So you might say it is drinking the water.

      One negative has been the shortage of affordable housing since K.

      Emeril's Restaurant
      800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

      3 Replies
      1. re: collardman
        alabat Jan 20, 2011 12:31 PM

        I think that the New Orleans natives are just in love with food. I once had a business guest from out of town and we were eating and at one point the conversation turned to what we were going to eat tonight. He said that we not finished eating lunch and we already are talking about the next meal.

        Alot has to do with the history of the city. New Orleans is a very old town and has had many ethinc cultures contribute to the cusine. A big mistake made by visitors is to think New Orleans is Cajun, it's not. New orleans true roots are Creole and a lot of the orginal food was Creole based. There is nothing wrong with Cajun and in modern time it has made it's way into the New Orleans scene.

        Again the bottom line is we LOVE FOOD and are blessed with a abundance of fresh seafood and have old resturants that keep traditions alive and help train a lot of great chefs. Yes we are a tourist city and that does help but good food and service go a lot deeper then that.

        How crazy are we about food. When I got married Richard Collins had just published his book "The Underground Gourmet" we kept it next to the bed and would often read it at night to figure out where we wanted to go next. Not your usual newly wed thing.
        Time to go Thanks for listening
        Born and raised in Mid City

        1. re: alabat
          Bill Hunt Jan 21, 2011 06:41 PM

          "I think that the New Orleans natives are just in love with food."

          I agree. In most cities, people eat to live - in NOLA, they live to eat.

          While I might not converse about the evening's dining plans at breakfast, or lunch, they have probably been made 3 mos. out, so there is little to discuss - just anticipate.


        2. re: collardman
          Bill Hunt Jan 21, 2011 06:38 PM

          I find your comments interesting. For me, I think that the European aspect probably has a lot to do with setting many dining experiences apart in NOLA. As I mentioned to Hazelhurst, we encounter similar more often in Europe/UK, than in the US. New Orleans, unlike many cities, that match your criteria, and observations, do not have so many "professional servers." In NOLA, one can encounter 6th generation waitstaff. It is a profession, and a proud one. In many other cities, the server is killing time - in SF, they are studying to be an interior decorator, in LA, they have a screenplay in their back pocket, in Las Vegas, they are hoping for tips to hit the tables later that night, in Hawai`i, they came for the surfing, but need to pay the rent. It goes on, and on, and obviously NOLA has students, folk who just lost their job at ____, etc., but there is also a "server class," and they take great pride in their work.

          While there are certainly frenetic aspects to life in NOLA, when it comes to dining, most locals take that seriously, and good servers recognize and appreciate that. I'd probably go broke, were I a chef, or restauranteur, but I would want all patrons to spend their entire evening with me, taking in each and every bite, and between, enjoying the conversation around the table. My servers would be able to recognize this, and would be ever vigilant for just the needs of the table, even if they were divided between several tables. Yeah, in my dreams...


        3. h
          hjacmc Jan 20, 2011 03:53 PM

          One of the first sayings I heard when I moved here 35 years ago was: "Everywhere else people eat to live; in New Orleans we live to eat." The social aspect of sharing a meal is so ubiquitous in every facet of life here - family, friends, business, church . . . even PTA meetings! - people are not willing to settle for a half-baked affair. Pleasant surroundings and friendly service are just naturally expected. Granted, any new restaurant may sport a talented chef and a fancy innovative menu, but if the service doesn't eventually measure up to snuff it usually does not last long. Most of the old-timers I know here are on a first name basis with the waitstaff at their favorite hangouts. I was once invited by the sculptress Angela Gregory to dinner at Galatoire's. "Her" waiter fawned over her like she was a queen and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I returned there about a month later, and that waiter greeted me by name. Now that is talent! That is how you build a loyal clientele and that is why we here are gifted with some of the best dining establishments in the world.

          Galatoire's Restaurant
          209 Bourbon St., New Orleans, LA 70130

          1 Reply
          1. re: hjacmc
            Bill Hunt Jan 21, 2011 06:50 PM

            Oops, did not read down-thread enough, and cited the same line. My bad!

            As for the "social aspect," I agree completely. We enjoy the full experience, and greatly.

            In a thread on the Not About Food Board here, the discussion was "do you eat American, or European style?" Many posters touted how much more efficient the Euro-style was for eating quantities of food quickly. My comments were "why?" If I want efficiency, I will have the kitchen puree the food into an emulsion, and put it into a squeeze bottle with a large spout. I want to savor each bite, and then talk to my companions. I do not need some efficiency expert telling me that I am taking too long, by changing my knife for my fork, in my right hand. I do not want them to tell me to not speak to the people at my table, when I am done chewing. It should be about total enjoyment, and not about some concept of efficiency. In too many places, it's only about turning tables, and not about the enjoyment of the patrons, or their guests. Numbers - cattle - and not diners. New Orleanians know how to dine, or at least many of them do. I appreciate that. Few other cities quite understand that concept. And many fellow diners miss it, as well. I feel pity for them.


          2. texasredtop Jan 20, 2011 05:05 PM

            There's a lot of competition in NO in the restaurant business. To have good food is one thing but to have that with fabulous service is just a plus.

            1. j
              JazzyB Jan 21, 2011 06:00 AM

              It wasn't the water. Your experience is the " norm". A polished operation from top to bottom. I was a non fan as well. The flagship wonus over .Consistently great food and service has made us regulars. It's also our favorite spot pre Saints home games.

              1. s
                Sarah1083 Jan 21, 2011 02:36 PM

                I had exactly the same experience at Emeril's. My parents were in town visiting and months later they still talk about the excellent service. The whole wait team (I think we had 3 or 4 different servers for our party of 4) was excellent. Everyone was attentive, polite, uber-professional and exceedingly likable. Water glasses were constantly full. Dishes and drinks were explained with great detail and led to a wonderful dining experience. Hands down the best service I've ever had in NOLA.

                Emeril's Restaurant
                800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

                2 Replies
                1. re: Sarah1083
                  hazelhurst Jan 21, 2011 03:23 PM

                  This is an interesting inquiry. I agree that Emeril's has that crisp service that impresses...so does Commander's. I eat at my regular places often enough that I know the gang and the gang knows my 'pace' of eating....I kinda like being left alone for long periods of time. The "hovering" style does not suit me, even in places I have never been to. But I think the New Orleans style is one that is accomodating, relaxed and friendly...the staff at the best places are very good at judging the customer's wants. I kinda like the (excuse the expression) slovenly approach; the waiters have things to do and I see no reason for them to bother with me while I am lingering. [An exception is when the staff wants to Go Away by x-o'clock....let them go.]

                  I think that the staff are imbued with the style and feel of the City..even if from afar. In the final analysis, it is the fact that New Orleans is the maddest, gladdest, most magical city in the nation. And I love it so.

                  Emeril's Restaurant
                  800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

                  1. re: hazelhurst
                    Bill Hunt Jan 21, 2011 06:21 PM

                    Been awhile, but I never felt that the staff at Emeril's hovered. Last trip was with our niece, and she had a lot to talk to us about. I cannot recall one sentence being interrupted, and that is hard to do, if you are a server. While not a 3-star staff, some 1-star folk could have taken notes and lessons.

                    I hate "hovering," and really appreciate it, when the server seems to magically appear, when needed. They should just float into the scene, and silently fill wine/water glasses, look about, and float away. Not easy to do., but greatly appreciated by me, when it happens that way.

                    Having learned to "dine" in New Orleans, we greatly appreciate the concept of pacing. We encounter that most often in Europe, or the UK, and a bit less often in the US - outside of New Orleans. Even some high-end restaurants just do not get it, and when we encounter one, that does, we greatly appreciate things. When hosting, I will usually pull our head-server aside, and describe how I wish the pacing to progress. When just dining, I will usually just specify that we are not doing the theater, wish to have a lovely, intimate meal, and then hope that there are not people in the dining room, who know us, and will likely intrude at just the wrong moment. With my wife, that happens all too often, whether in Phoenix, Honolulu, London, or especially New Orleans.

                    When service is ON, it is a thing of beauty, though one will probably not even realize it, until after the meal. Then, they will comment, I never saw our servers, but everything was handled, before we really needed it - like ghosts. I cannot say enough about the folk, who pull it off, and even on busy nights. They are magical. I just hope that I tipped enough, so they will be there next time.


                    Emeril's Restaurant
                    800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

                2. Bill Hunt Jan 21, 2011 06:07 PM

                  So glad that you had a wonderful experience. It has been a bit for us, but whenever we have dined at Emeril's, or Delmonico, we have greatly enjoyed the experience, and for many of the reasons that you mention. My feeling is that the management gets it, and shares that with the staff. In our experiences, they have been able to translate great service, with excellent hospitality and loads of fun.

                  Though I know my wines well, our servers have always been able to pull up something new, or at least newish, that worked well with the dishes served. No pretense, no "big-sells," just good, workable suggestions. I think that the sommelier from Emeril's might work with the wine servers at Delmonico's, but that is just me. They were OK, but could have been better.

                  We recently dined at NOLA (another in the group), and found the service to be at least Michelin 1 star, and the food not far behind. It was our first visit there, and we presented a few problems, which they handled without even a blink. Even my wife, who grades restaurants as hard as I do, allowed how she was greatly impressed, and wishes to return.

                  While I would not rate any Emeril's as the ultimate in their various genres, none has ever failed to provide me with good food, good service and enjoyment.

                  I hope that there is an upside to this economy, and that will be that the good places will rise to the top, the mediocre places will elevate their game, and the bad places will just blow away in the wind.


                  Emeril's Restaurant
                  800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

                  1. c
                    conOsewer Jan 28, 2011 07:16 PM

                    In the world, there has to be a best place for dining. Its New Orleans.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: conOsewer
                      kukubura Jan 30, 2011 10:05 AM

                      That's a cool post.

                      1. re: kukubura
                        ilikeNOLA May 10, 2011 11:31 PM

                        Emeril's is by far the best of his three in New Orleans. I think one has to look at Emeril's former employers to see how the restaurant was supposed to run. If anyone has gone to Commander's Palace and had the great service there you can see the direct influence it had on Emeril. I like how everyone in the party is served at exactly the same time. That is a nice touch.

                        Peace Out!!

                        Commander's Palace Restaurant
                        1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

                        Emeril's Restaurant
                        800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130

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