713 Saint Louis Street
New Orleans, LA 70130-2182
Antoine’s is one of the oldest restaurants in the country. 160 years or something insane. My dad strongly suggested that we go and when I saw that they did a Jazz brunch, I thought, “Bingo.” I’m not a huge music person so this would be a great way to get a ration of jazz while eating somewhere really old.
At 11:02, we were safely seated in a box. The restaurant is a solid and even sided box, decorated with light colors and old detailing. The waiters are all dressed up and seem to have been there since the dawn of time. They aren’t even that old, you can just tell that they know their way around the place and the menu in a way that means they have been there through it all.
Mimosas were the starter drinks, then the Antoine’s Smile which was pink and sweet and so much like a Swedish Fish martini from my days in Worcester, MA, that I wanted to giggle when I had it.
The Alligator soup had a slight spice to it and a murky, homey quality that surprised us at first, but came to be what we looked for in good soups as the meals continued. The little bits of meat that made the soup thick were the largest difference between the alligator soup and the Gumbo. It was also murky, homey and a bit spicy. This time, it was smoother with a hint of the sea. I liked it. I liked my first Gumbo.
Jack had the Crab omelet with a spicy Creole sauce on top. It was basically a large, seafood number with salsa. He seemed happy with it, but not enthralled. My own Fried oysters and bacon over pecan rice pilaf with beurre blanc had highs and lows. The Pilaf was really good on its own with the chopped up pecans adding complexity and texture to it. The fried oysters were good. They were big with a nice, hefty crust that went crunch just as well-fried things should. The beurre blanc sauce was sad. It was like a very old paste, drizzled across my plate. And as I mixed it with rice or oysters, the sticky bland seemed to envelope the whole thing. Salt would have helped, but I don’t think anything could have saved this sauce.
Our waiter encouraged us to have dessert. We were full, it was 12pm, and we had already eaten two courses and listened to a jazz trio try to sell us their CD. They were fun and nice, but $20 per disk was a little um…no way. He told us that when he started, 25 years ago, he had eaten one of the meringue desserts every day for over a year because he couldn’t spend a shift without it. He also said that the guys who’d already been there fifty years had gout and major problems with their limbs because of the meringue ice cream dessert so he’d taken their example and quit as soon as he could…a year. He also said something like “of course you’ll want the pecan pie.” He said it like, everyone always has pecan pie or else they are New Orleanian impostors. I certainly didn’t want us to be one of those so we had both (sort of the opposite of no desserts if you think about it).
The pecan pie was warm and sticky with a heated nut crust on top that broke like a crème brulle when you started eating it. It pretty good. Jack liked it more than I did. The Vanilla ice cream over baked meringue with chocolate fudge sauce and sliced toasted almonds was sort of like death. I usually find vanilla ice cream to be boring and a waste of ice cream-calories. Meringue, while not a waste of calories, seems to be sort of a waste of air and sugar to me, and fudge sauce, while good, is a substance I seem to have long learned how to live without. All together, the sweet, the creaminess, the crunch and crumble and the warm, oozing fudge was something I could not stop eating. I didn’t finish either dessert, but I came closer than I’d planned on both.
Antoine’s is old. It’s as old as I said and more. The menu and food are old, the room feels old. Someone at our hotel said that Katrina was a secret help to the restaurant because it allowed them to use insurance money to spruce up their antiquated everything. There is something to love though, about career waiters, especially those in bow ties. In New York, restaurants come and go, staff come and go. Our restaurant culture isn’t one that encourages people to stay.