28 July 2006

Lost City: New Orleans Edition: Gaiety at Galatoire's

Do people have fun in restaurants? I know, they seem to have fun, they say they have fun, they go with the aim to have fun. But is it really a party atmosphere? Not in my experience. Manhattan's high-end eateries are mainly tension-making hives where everyone is worrying if the waiter likes them; if they've got a good table; if they've ordered right; if people are watching them in approval. Ugh.

I have never seen people have as much carefree fun in an eating establishment as I did at Galatoire's, the 100-year-old restaurant on Bourbon Street, where jackets are required, and so is a good attitude. I went on a Friday night, which I discovered later is party night at Galatoire's. All night, as I sat at my table for one with my Sazerac, turtle soup and pompano, I witnessed toasts being made (loudly) and birthdays being celebrated. Men in seersucker delighted in picking up the check, and well-dressed kiddies seemed genuinely grateful, smiling and kissing their elders. Ladies of a Certain Age happily gossiped. Mirrored walls meant you could easily witness the ebullience in total.

My waiter, who seemed to have a Brooklyn accent, led me through the menu, seeing I was a N'awlins newbie. ("Let's stick to what I like," he said. We did, and it was good.) The owner actually stopped by my table to see how I was doing. Imagine if you could go to such a place on a regular basis—how much more fun life would be. And imagine if were denied its delights—how dejected you would feel. No wonder old folks died of broken hearts when displaced by Katrina.

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