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Oct 4, 2012 08:14 AM

Nice dinner in New Orleans minus reservations?

Hello New Orleans chow hounds :)

My husband and I will be traveling to NOLA Oct. 10 through Oct. 15. We will be staying at the Astor Crowne Plaza. I was hoping for some recomendations on a nice dinner out without having to make reservations. We will be in town for hubby to attend a convention at Morial that will have a mostly flexible schedule.

I have been reading recs here for a few months on where to eat and drink and I must say I do feel rather overwhelmed with all the choices. I do know one thing, he wants seafood and I want authentic southern, creole and cajun.

We love walking and exploring new destinations but will have transportation available to us, I would like to use the streetcars once or twice however.

Come to think of it, anyone have an opinion as to whether or not we should reconsider getting a car there? I fear the parking situation and overpriced hotel valet might have my sweetie cussing in no time flat!

Thank you in advance for any and all responses!

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  1. You don't need the ehadache of a vehicle. Your hotel is right in the thick of things and only Commanders, Clancy's, Patois &c would require a cab or streetcar/bus. I've been sending people over to Luke which has settled in nicely. It is evocative to me of extinct places of my youth and fits for people who are not travelling with coat and tie and who would like to just 'drop in." Galatoire's is open throughtout the day and you do not need to be dressed before five but you'll be happier if you do. Do not go there if you don't like fish and butter. this is straightforward food without pretension. It takes more than one visit to get to know both these places but you'll enjoy your maiden voyage if you just relax and don't expect either shop to be anything it is not.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hazelhurst

      Thank you you so much for the suggestions HH.
      I love the idea of a place we can just "drop in". No time restraints that way, no pressure. We will have some business casual attire with us so that wont be a problem. I was leaning towards the idea of not getting a car, thinking it would be a hassle and an added unnecessary expense, so I appreciate your input with that as well.

      1. re: hazelhurst

        Love Luke for lunch at the bar. Agree 100% about the car. Cabs are reasonable in NOLA compared to many cities and you can always streetcar there and cab back.

      2. Along with HH's recs., I would look into G W Fins. While we always have reservations, they take walk-ins too. That would satisfy the "seafood" aspect, and most of their dishes feature "local" seafood, done with "local" preps, so there is that "authenticity" aspect. It is just into the FQ, and not far from you. No car required - actually, one would be a liability.



        16 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Thank you Mr.Hunt, I was thinking of GW Fins as a possibility. With your reccomendation I think we'll definately make a stop there :)
          Has anyone experienced the Crescent City Blues and BBQ festival by chance? I have read mixed reviews about it. Don't know if it would be worth the effort, maybe it's only good for people watching?

          1. re: jasonsd

            The concerts in Lafayette Square are usually pretty excellent and the effort is minimal (it's free after all and steps away from where you're staying). Certainly the food lineup looks promising. Hint: don't miss whatever the Joint is putting out.

            1. re: jasonsd

              I have not, but it appears that others have, and have stepped up to offer some input.



            2. re: Bill Hunt

              GW Fins is a fine choice for a vacationing conventioneer couple, but no matter how many times it gets regurgitated in response to every query on this board, it is simply incorrect that "most of their dishes feature "local" seafood, done with "local" preps". GW Fins is a better, non-chain version of McCormick and Schmick's and the same kind of ubiquitous pan-everywhere upscale seafood house found in every American city with an airport and an audience for $30 plates of seared fish over risotto and $100 bottles of California Cabernet (and an indifference to the dichotomy of those two items co-existing in the same venue).

              Or, as they describe themselves in the first two sentences of the "about us" page of their website:
              "Dining at GW Fins is like taking a culinary expedition around the globe, dining on the finest quality seafood at every port. Diners might begin their journey with fresh King Crab from Alaska, head south to sample a whole roasted Red Snapper and fly halfway around the world to enjoy Blue Nose Bass from New Zealand. Best of all, diners can enjoy this fabulous seafood all in one meal from their comfortable seats at GW Fins, a restaurant located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter."

              Its a perfectly fine restaurant for some people (particularly for the cold smoked oysters in season) and its a favorite of my 68 year-old parents from Scottsdale (who enjoy dining out and don't mind where their fish comes from or whether it pairs with a bottle of Opus 1 as long as it all tastes good and is served in elegant surroundings), but food enthusiasts who read these exchanges as part of their travel planning should have accurate descriptions (ie, one that at least conforms to the restaurant's description of itself) so they can make their own informed decisions about how to choose from the many great dining options in Nola.

              And I'd take total exception to the person who thinks Galatoire's is "without pretension", unless there's some alternate-universe dictionary with a more apt word for a jackets-required (and funny hats encouraged) restaurant charging $8 for a side of steamed broccoli just because its drowned in butter sauce. But the food is indeed "straight-forward" (for better or worse) - and both my aforementioned parents and the people who recommend it to every single person who posts (regardless of the query) love it there too.

              For jasonsd specifically, I'd suggest that you also consider the Bon Ton Cafe in the CBD, which is legitimately focused on "local" seafood and preparations and has a similar adherence to local culinary tradition as Galatoire's, minus the pomp/pretension and $8 vegetables. It gets busy like all the good places, but as someone who's not big on reservations either I've never encountered much difficulty getting a table as a walk-in party of 2.

              Also re. festivals during your visit, I'm all for blues for but I'd skip the BBQ and instead chow down at the Louisiana Seafood Festival in the park at the base of Canal Street, which has three days of good music and all sorts of good food...where, by the way, you can sample Galatoire's shrimp remoulade out of a paper basket while drinking beer and listening to jazz - which for my money is the only way to enjoy their food sans pretension. See you there!

              1. re: Omniverous

                Bon Ton is a good idea but it is not open all day and it might fill up for dinner readily, small as it is. And, of course, it is not open on the weekend.

                1. re: hazelhurst

                  The query I read asked for dinner recommendations, not places open all day - but yes, its good for them to know that they'd have to go on nights other than Sat/Sun. Thank you.

                  1. re: Omniverous

                    Thank you Omniverous for sharing your insight. I had been pondering BonTon, so now we'll have another place to consider. We will be there 5 nights and 6 days so we'll have time for a few choices.
                    I hadn't seen that the seafood festival is that weekend! Definately will be going there!
                    Thanks again :)

                    1. re: jasonsd

                      Its no fault of your research - I enjoyed it last year, but had difficulty myself in finally finding the details for this year's event, which is no longer called the New Orleans Seafood Festival and thankfully no longer held at the beginning of September.

                      Here's the link:

                      1. re: Omniverous

                        I did actually find some information on it after I originally responded to your post. Thanks so much for the heads up! I am getting very excited for our trip :)

                        1. re: Omniverous

                          Omgracious! I just looked at the food vendor listing for the seafood festival, looks very promising.

                        2. re: jasonsd

                          One nice thing about The Bon Ton is that they have stuck to an authentic etouffee..or did the last time I had it. So many are using tons of tomato and a roux. I also lke the turtle soup.

                          1. re: hazelhurst

                            Definately going to BonTon then. I'm looking forward to some authentic etouffee!
                            For some reason I can't wrap my mind around turtle soup though. My brother had a toy turtle named Yertle the turtle that had a pull string when I was little. He would say "I'm Yertle the turtle" and I loved that thing. I believe this to be the origins of my unreasonable "turtles have personalities" mental block, so dumb.

                    2. re: Omniverous

                      Omniverous, I must rise in defense of GW Fins.

                      It is true that they do source fresh fish from all over the country, and they do a great job of it. They almost always feature New Bedford scallops, for example, that are flown in the from New England the same day that they are prepared and served.

                      The percentage of the menu that is local fish changes all the time, because the menu changes daily. I will agree that might be a mild stretch to say that on any day it is "mostly" local fish and preps, but they are always represented. For example, when you visited their web site to copy and paste that text, you may have also noticed that the most recently published online menu includes shrimp remoulade, a fried softshell crab appetizer, a redfish entree, etc.

                      I agree that if you want an all-Gulf fish menu done only with old school Creole preps (like you might find at Galatoire's, ironically enough), GW Fins will not be an exact match. But it is also a bit misleading to lump it together with corporate chain restaurants like McCormick & Schmick's. GW Fins has one location, in the French Quarter, and it is part of the fabric of New Orleans dining.

                      And you don't even have to wear a coat or a "funny hat."

                      You can get local seafood with local preps there, and other tasty options too.

                    3. re: Bill Hunt

                      Hey Bill -- You've sort of taken an unwarranted beating for this recommendation. While I can readily agree with others that not everything's "100 mile diet" local, the preparations sure are and when the seafood can be sourced locally it is. You can visit all of the Northeast without ever running into a "fried lobster tail with remoulade slaw" I promise. Sure, the lobsters are 1200 miles away (which these days *seems* local ... I make that trip in 1.5 days on a motorcycle) but damn, few Mainers are going to offer you seconds on their homemade remoulade slaw. It may not be "traditional" (whatever the hell that is...) but it sure isn't "New England Lobster."

                      Anyway, keep the rec's coming.

                      To the OP: you're here for a while. If you get tired of the fancy stuff, check out one of the pop-ups that are, well, popping up. Just tried We've Got Soul that shows up on Friday's at Marie's bar on Burgundy in the Marigny (I think that's the 2400 block) and it was fabulous. (Plus you can hit Frenchmen St. on your way back to the Quarter.) If that's too far out of your way, there's bound to be something closer. I realize that pop-ups are food truck derivatives and the movement started elsewhere but NOLA's embraced it and made it its own, so enjoy.


                      (Also in the neighborhood:

                      1. re: montuori

                        Yes. It seems that "local" is not "local" to some. I also do not mind it not every possible item on a menu is not "local," so long as most of it is.

                        I am fortunate to dine around the globe, and seldom expect every dish to be locally sourced, though at some restaurants, they all are. Heck, even one of my all-time favorites, Blackberry Farm, that grows about 80% of their produce, and then sources another 80% from within the South, there WILL be some items, that are NOT local - like Salmon. Not many of those in the Smoky Mountains.

                        At the end of the day, when it comes time for dinner, it is all about the taste of the food. That counts for 99.9% of my enjoyment, and if the recipes are "authentic," I take notice. Still, that "authenticity" takes a back seat to "good."


                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                        Bill, I note that last December, when New Orleans Magazine named Chef Flynn of GW Fins as the Chef of the Year (for the second time), their description aligned with yours.

                        "But even in a town where there are a lot of very talented chefs doing world-renowned work, Flynn continues to demonstrate passion and distinction for his creations of mostly local (but often beyond local) fish....While there are still many fish offered on the menu, the main source of product is the Gulf of Mexico. Flynn is very proud of what the Gulf brings to his restaurant. He notes, “Many people don’t realize that we’re the No. 2 producer of tuna in America, right after Hawaii. When we have tuna on the menu, and we almost always do, it’s so fresh because it comes from right next door to New Orleans.”


                        Likewise Gambit: "But what really matters is on the plate, and GW Fins could not be just anywhere. This is a New Orleans original that manages to break the local mold while giving a better measure of the depth and quality of our local seafood abundance."


                      3. Many places in the FQ take walk ins, but realize that you will usually have a wait, particularly now that we are in convention season. If there is some place that you really want to go to, get a reservation (although it might be too late for some places

                        1. Thank you all for sharing your personal opinions and reccomendations, greatly appreciated :)
                          You have all given us much to consider during our visit.
                          I am even more excited now to get down there and start exploring! I have this feeling that New Orleans is going to be one of my favorite places to visit :)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jasonsd

                            New Orleans is a wonderful culinary experience - possibly the ultimate on the globe. There are but few "bad choices," and so many very good, to great ones, that one seldom has enough time.

                            I get to dine in many great "food cities" around the world, and have really never found one, like NOLA. As I no longer live there, there are some that come and go, and I never get to experience them. We usually try to include a few "old favs," plus a few new ones, but seldom have enough time. Maybe when my lovely, young wife (the NOLA native) retires, we can spend a month, and hit ALL of the high-points. Until then, we have to work hard, but then, we ARE rewarded for our efforts.

                            Most of all, ENJOY!