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Dec 17, 2012 09:18 PM

Interesting question...greatly a part of the reason we select our restaurants....please contribute...

This is a topic that pops up now and then in restaurant reviews; but is never isolated by itself, yet is a significant reason why we spend the money we do and where we spend it.....SERVICE.
So, my question for all my new friends in this amazing forum is:
What restaurant in NOLA would you want to recommend as a special place based upon the service? Two qualifiers for the answers.....The food should have, at the least, a quality level that would allow you to give it a (subjective) 3 out of 5 stars; and second, the quality of service MUST be consistent over a period of time. I am looking for people who feel a "connection" to a restaurant and their staff. People who keep going back to a particular restaurant even if the kitchen had a bad day last time. This is a forgotten topic and, IMHO, is strongly connected to the reasons that make Chowhound such a consistently accurate forum.
Many thanks for contributing....VG

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    1. I cannot think of a single "high-end" restaurant where teh waiters do not have their regular customers and where waiters have apologized for something that was insufiicient, taking it off a bill (Once a waiter told his regular customer that the pompano was insultingly thin and he would take it back. The customer, a friend of mine, said it would be OK, not to worry but the waiter would have none of it.) It is too much to say that New Orleans is unique in this regard but, perhaps, it is becoming so. I do not see long-standing waiters elsewhere although they were common in Boston and New York when I was a boy and young man. One time a regular customer of one of the Big Boys wanted something with crabmeat and a sauce. The restaurant was out of crabmeat but the idea of the sauce stuck in my friend's head. He tried a couple of things: shrimp, maybe? Too small, said the waiter. He ended up eating something with the desired sauce and enjoyed it well enough. Off he goes to night spots where I encountered him. After while he felt ill and had tummy trouble. Then he felt fine and continued with his evening. Shortly thereafter we encountered his waiter and when the story was told the waiter said "Oh God, not you too!" There had been some bag eggs that got through and, of course, the meal was taken off his bill. He didn't hold it against them since he didn't taste anything amiss himself. Accidents happen and he is a good example of the Best Customer who knows that Things Go Wrong. Animadversions from the Princess and the Pea" camp don't carry the day around here..not s'far as I can tell.

      10 Replies
      1. re: hazelhurst

        I, too, had many restos in NYC, both for business lunches and dinners where I knew the owner and staff, could order off the menu, and felt totally taken care of....However, my question really goes to finding that kind of restaurant in NOLA as a tourist and not a regular. They are becoming more and more an anomaly to the industry....people do not consider working in a restaurant (unless you are a chef or mgr) as a profession, it is seen more as a "job" and, hence, they just stay, pick up a check, and move on.

        1. re: VegasGourmet

          Well, if a tourist drops a regular's name with a waiter that is one way up. But I have often said that much of one's enjoyment relies upon what one brings to the table. It is as much a duet between customer and waiter as anything else. I once read a review where the deponent screamed her praises of some Pomp Palace by reporting with glee that her server ran interference for her from table to Ladies' Room. I fiond both the practice and the delight appalling. In effect, I am saying that a stranger can "get on the inside" by means of respect and courtesy and some curiosity. I have, I believe, been able to establish my bona fides in unknwon restaurants but it takes a little time. At "Danube" in NYC I found myself treated at the bar after dinner and the staff and I had a nice chat about The Business. Rather fun.

          1. re: VegasGourmet

            On refelction I think it is better for me to say that the idea of a professional waiter is still viable in New Orleans. Several waiters do well enough to own homes. As a rule they are crisp and professional and not a kid trying to make the rent money. There are differing styles and waiters themselves have diffenet styles. At Antoine's for years it was common to see a waiter lean on the table with his longtime customer but he'd give theh 'crisp Continental" service if the patron seemed to want it or was a Food Critic. Commanders has prided itself on the crisp style..some people like the unseen waiter who whisks in to replace the water level etc. It is more of an art here than most other (US) places I have been. The Modern Expert Waiter elsewhere I find to be too much: often there is a Hotel/restaurant speil that annoys more than comforts. (I consign here as an anomaly beyond description that EMP "history" lecture).

            1. re: hazelhurst

              NOLA is one of the few cities, where I find "professional wait staff," and it is greatly appreciated, and noted. Otherwise, with but a few exceptions, I only encounter similar in the UK, and Europe.

              Not THAT many restaurants can claim waitstaff, that is third generation!


              1. re: hazelhurst

                HH both of your posts make a lot of sense to me. We roll in to places like CP obviously ready to really enjoy ourselves and the servers, if they know their craft, sense it and either relax with us or give the impression that they're relaxing with us. Either way, they "get" our approach and reciprocate. It's a marvel to see.

                Heck, even at Napoleon House we once had a server sense our foul moods (we had lost a day to having to change hotels after our first turned out to be a hellhole) and somehow knew the exact way to lift our spirits. He sat and chatted with us but only just enough to turn us around. He wasn't clingy, but he wasn't brisk either. He just knew what he was doing and we're still talking about him years later.

                At Galatoire's the last time we told our server that we were in no hurry and he knew right away that he'd just check in on us every now and then, refresh the sazeracs and the water and basically give us space.

                At Antoine's soon after the storm we had some young servers who tried too hard, talked about the alternate career paths that they were planning and just sort of going too far. They weren't lifers (and, again, this was fairly soon after K) and it showed. I don't know if the young staff at CP plans to stick around forever but they make it seem like they do.

                1. re: kukubura

                  <<we had some young servers who tried too hard>>

                  That CAN be an issue, and one, that several have mentioned here, and in other threads.

                  A professional server has confidence to listen to the patron, and then apply their expertise to the situation. Too many "new servers" have been trained to "sell up," and then to "turn tables." That might work in a restaurant, like Morton's, or similar, but should never be part of the service in a restaurant like Antoine's, Galatorie's, CP, or similar.

                  Unfortunately, Katrina really messed up the restaurants in New Orleans. Many lost their wine cellars, some had water damage (like a roof at Antoine's), and then, their service staff. Many of the "pros" were displaced, and some never made it back. I do not fault a restaurant, as most were struggling mightily, just to open. Not a good time for anyone.

                  I see a lot of what you write of, but in other places, like LA, where ever waiter seems to be a screen-writer, or actor, and are all too quick to share that. In New Orleans, I hope to have a professional server, who knows the kitchen that night, and understands what great service to a patron is all about.

                  I also try to establish OUR pace, and doubly so, if we are hosting an dinner. I hate to be rushed, and would NEVER want my guests to feel so. All professional waitstaff gets it, and if they have any question, they know to ask me quietly.

                  I really do not care about "career paths," but only about my service that evening. While I might wish 'em well, it is about me, and my guests. I cannot be too concerned about what each server might aspire to, beyond general, light conversation.

                  One of the things that I greatly appreciate about the general restaurant service in New Orleans that it is professional, akin to the higher-end restaurant service in the UK and Europe. When dining, I greatly appreciate that. I have found that in a few restaurants in NYC, but not as often, as in New Orleans. Maybe it is the strong Euro-influence?


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Bill.....I could not have stated those thoughts more eloquently.....a prime reason why this website is so unique. Dining, as compared to eating....must, by all means, include those involved with the meal; and none more important to the meal than the waitstaff. While not eating with you, they must understand (and, hopefully, enjoy) what that specific meal and its components bring. The crux of my original question is built on the difference between dining and eating....and, yes, since everyone can always have an "off night" can never expect 100% on this; but it never hurts, especially as the patron, to try for that 100%.

                    1. re: VegasGourmet

                      When we moved from New Orleans (wife was a native, and I grew up near-by), I tried to typify things to others, as "New Orleanians live to eat, where many others eat to live." That was lost on many.

                      To us, food is king, but then the rest of the dining experience is the full "court." All contribute, and some elements, greatly, to our experience.

                      Now, I can recall some dining experiences, where the "ambiance" was faulty, but the food carried the meal, but cannot recall any, where the service was faulty, but where we completely enjoyed the experience. Not saying that there are NOT places, where the "soup Nazi," or the "sushi Nazi," do not produce great food - just that we want the whole deal.


                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                      Definitely good call on the European influence. It's so interesting to track service in Europe, where they don't live and die by their tips and are able to give efficient, polite service without going over the top or ignoring you. Although my favorite European service quirk is in Vienna where if you ask for the tip you'd better be ready to pay at that moment because they will pull out that huge black wallet and stand right next to you until you're all settled up. Until then you can linger for hours but once you indicate you're ready to settle up that clock ticks fast. (This is more at the kaffeehauser level than fine dining)

                      Our Antoine's experience was years ago and I don't count it against them. Plus the guys did give us a lengthy tour of the building etc so it was a really fun night, but kind of exhausting.

                      And, yeah I don't care about "career paths" either, but for that moment I don't want to be constantly reminded that you'd rather be somewhere else.

                      1. re: kukubura

                        <<but for that moment I don't want to be constantly reminded that you'd rather be somewhere else.>>

                        That cannot be stated strongly enough. It is information, that is best not shared with the patrons, to whom one is providing service - keep that screenplay in your back pocket.


            2. I have visited NOLA several times and I would recommend Commander's Palace. As tourists we were treated very well. On the other hand, Galatoire's service was so bad we got up and left half way through our meal .

              8 Replies
              1. re: floridaeater

                Sorry to hear about Galatoire's. We have always had great service (and food) there, though we are now but tourists. Maybe our luck has just been great.


                1. re: floridaeater

                  I don't share this view of Galatoire's, but I do recommend that everyone who goes there as a tourist get a primer on what makes it unique. The first time we went it was an outright disaster (won't revisit it here) but we realized later it was "user error" and now "get it" and enjoy.

                  I've described my feelings about Commander's Palace at length before: There are places in NOLA where you will get top notch service and there are places where you need to be a regular to get it. But Commander's Palace somehow has a way of making even a first timer FEEL like an insider. If you're fun and you let the servers know it (and also tip well) you will find the servers giving you the little winking asides that make you feel like you're in on the joke. We were there for an amazing gathering of NOLA hospitality insiders last year at the holidays (we were merely at the next table over) but the servers, while trying to wrangle this rowdy crew, would look over at us and smile like "can you believe these guys?" It was great. The delivery of the plates and all that is perfected there, but the little personal touches like that just put it over the top.

                  But, again, the key is to tip well!

                  1. re: kukubura

                    Thx.....Gonna do Galatoire's on Sunday starting at 2ish and hope to make it last...will do my best to have the waiter "work with me" as early afternoon turns into early evening. Doing CP Jazz Brunch on Saturday, so it should be more relaxed than a dinner. I have been looking hard at Upperline; from what I read elsewhere, JoAnn Clevenger seems to be the kind of owner that I am looking for as to service/ambiance...and enjoyment of what they are doing. The menu looks solid also....

                    1. re: kukubura

                      I used to feel that way about CP, but on the last several trips, was disappointed. Maybe the nights were just wrong. like the day after the death of Chef Shannon, just before, and then, just after Katrina, but the last trip was only two years ago, and there were just too many missteps. Not sure what had happened to one of our all-time favorites? Still, with so much history for us, we hold out hope.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Bill, you and your lovely young wife should have lunch with us at CP some time and we can all see how it goes together!

                        1. re: kukubura

                          We have not done lunch, in some years.

                          We would love to do so, and hope to put together a "Grand Dame" tour of NOLA, as we were fortunate to do, in May, just before Katrina.

                          Thanks for the invitation,


                    2. re: floridaeater

                      I live in California.

                      I've never had bad service at Galatoire's. On the other hand, I had bad service -- once -- at August and Stella! (once each). Nonetheless, I still look forward to returning to these places . . .


                      1. re: zin1953

                        Thx Jason.....I've chosen a couple of "under the radar" places for dinners.....Upperline and well as Le Foret to mix with the larger/tourist restos: Arnaud's, Pelican Club and R'Evolution. My focus is on the service/ambiance and consistency of food...more comfort than "exploratory menus" (such as Stella).

                    3. I have three, based on the stated criteria:

                      Restaurant August
                      The Grill Room (Windsor Court)

                      As I can not consider myself as a local (moved away over 30 years ago), I am but a tourist.


                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Bill.....(and Hazelhurst).....I am intrigued by the Windsor Court I was with the Bon Ton Cafe. Perhaps visiting/drinking at the Polo Club Lounge or the Cocktail Bar at the Windsor after walking from our late lunch at Galatoire's on Sunday.

                        1. re: VegasGourmet

                          In my opinion, if you "do Galatoire's right" you won't need to go anywhere else is its own "afterward." Cocktails for an hour or so after dinner? Unheard of! That couple next to you finished lunch at 3:45 and have been drinking since. Maybe now that it is 7:15 they'll think about dinner.

                          Windsor Court is great, though. I wouldn't think of walking that far after the boys at Galatoire's have fed me. It's a struggle to make it to the streetcar sometimes, even with minimal alcohol (I'm not 21 anymore..thank God, in some respects).

                          I think Bon Ton is worth stopping into for a particular item. I sometimes have the turtle soup en route to somewhere else. Others love their crab dishes. Despite the declarations of a late friend that the salads are "desperate" I contest that. they are BEYOND desperate and remind me of a prisoner shackled to a wall who is hoping to die. Stick to the soups and crab and you'll be fine.

                          1. re: hazelhurst

                            <<I contest that. they are BEYOND desperate and remind me of a prisoner shackled to a wall who is hoping to die.>>

                            What wine do you suggest with those - Orin Swift's "The Prisoner," or maybe his "Papillion?"


                            PS - I am a fan of Bon Ton, but cannot recall having had a salad there.

                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              I suspect that there is a reason you don't recall a salad there. They are accurate in that they look just like the same celluose shavings I find in Acadiana (everything else is good in these places) and no different from the iceberg/carrot shreds at place probably called Mama's Vittles across from the train station in Hattieburg, Miss., or even Eufaula, AL.

                              I like "The Prisoner" and wouldn't insult it with any salad, as of course you know. But I like the gag.

                              You remind me of when I struggled through "Papillion" in French. Couldn't do it today, I wager.

                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                For salads, I come from a time, and a place, where a "wedge," with "Thousand Island dressing" was considered the "best of breed."

                                Much has changed, but I still cannot conjure up any salad at Bon Ton. As all meals were lunch, IIRC, it could not have been the declaration of "Wine-thirty" early, but just bad memory on my part. Psychologists state that many people repress bad memories, as though they never existed - maybe my Bon Ton salads fall into that category?


                          2. re: VegasGourmet

                            We have done the Polo Club several times, but are both more INTO dinner, than a bar scene (however, I DO enjoy the Carousel Bar). Once, way back when, we had a horrible dinner service at the Grill Room, but after some years, my lovely, young wife, insisted that we give them another try. We did, and they came through, with flying colors. We have dined there, through two name changes, and have not been disappointed.

                            Take the time to look at the murals, and closely, plus ask for the descriptions and history of each. That is more easily done at lunch, as they should not be filled to capacity. Spend some time with those paintings, as you WILL be rewarded. Glad that my wife insisted on giving them another chance. That has worked out for a couple of restaurants. Maybe I need to try the Hilton Drago's again? Or, maybe not.


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Hunt....I was looking for "comfort" after Galatoire's.....and felt that the Polo Lounge would offer more of that than the more touristy Carousel Bar...especially early evening. I felt that getting out of the FQ would make more sense....and, once again, this is my first time in NOLA, so I do have this exploratory need to keep trying something new rather than revisit. I would be looking for a bar/lounge/small plate place to relax/reflect on my last 4+ hours...happy to consider alternatives...thoughts?

                              1. re: VegasGourmet

                                I used to have a fairly regular routine of going to the Bombay Club after Galatoire's. It is a comfortable spot although I've hit times when it was out of control--that happens everywhere nowadays.

                                At the restaurant on Sunday you might not get the full "turning" effect depending on what is going on in town. The number of locals who go out to eat on Sunday evenings seems to have declined. But teh post church crowd should be there.

                                1. re: VegasGourmet

                                  Polo Lounge is great. Or hit the bar at R'evolution or Sylvain.

                                  As for service, Galatoire's and Commander's are the two places that come to mind. Oh and Jamila's, where the owner is your server. (Jamila's is excellent North African, so I doubt that's what you're looking for.)

                          3. While it has not been mentioned, yet, I have an addition to make: Brigtsen's.

                            While we love the food, the comfortable and seamless service is what we remark on.

                            We agree that service is elemental to a pleasant experience.

                            We try to visit New Orleans once a year and Brigtsen's has, by dint of food and service, earned the "honor" of being the only dinner destination that we REFUSE to miss.

                            Best of luck and have a wonderful experience.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Monch

                              If I recall correctly you never made it to Galtoire's despite a long and entertaining post detailing matters down to (almost) wing-tip spectators. let me know when you make it. And yes, I do like Frank's stuff too.

                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                You DO recall correctly, my good sir! The Perlis oxford shirt, mail-ordered, has served me well and I'm on my way to fitting into the white linen regalia that has patiently hung in my closet for a....smaller....owner.

                                We had the date set, albeit without the regalia, but Hurricane Isaac had other ideas.

                                From Meyers Panama, to wing-tips, the Galatoire's experience WILL be had...I have warned my wife and endured her eye-rolls!

                                1. re: Monch

                                  Since you are prepared, you MUST do Galatoire's.

                                  I understand "closet shrinkage," as both my white linen and my pin-feather need to be "expanded," but that might also be due to the various restaurants, that we have sampled, since I bought them - no - closet shrinkage, and that is my story, and I am sticking to it.


                              2. re: Monch


                                We are also big fans of Brigtsen's, and have enjoyed every one of our meals there. The service is a tad more "familiar," than in some other high-end restaurants, but then, my wife's family is sort of "family" with them, so it is tough to separate things. Still, always great food and great service.