For my 100th report I decided to go somewhere special. It was also my anniversary weekend, so I decided to bring my wife along with me. What could be more special than the oldest continually operating restaurant in America? Antoine’s it was.
When the now world famous Café Du Monde opened and started selling beignets and café au lait in New Orleans in 1862, Antoine’s had already been open for twenty years. That’s pretty old! The place is a maze inside, with fourteen dining rooms. Only two are pictured. The second one is where we dined. There are signed pictures all over the walls of famous people who ate there. I was lucky enough to have Don Knotts and Ed Asner staring at me while I ate. They also have a nice little Jazz Band playing for Sunday Brunch.
We had reservations for 12:30 PM and had to park so far away I was scared we were going to be late. I said that to note that I was looking at my watch. We arrived at 12:25 PM. The hostess seemed less than thrilled to see us. In fact she seemed quite annoyed we were there. She didn’t seem to care about seating us, then amazingly a guy I used to work with, who’s a waiter there now, walked up and greeted me. We exchanged a few pleasantries and it looked like she started to tell him she didn’t have anywhere to seat us, but he told her he’d take care of it, and got us seated. We sat down right at 12:30 PM.
We sat there for fifteen minutes reading the menu when our waiter finally showed up, apologized for taking so long to get there, and asked us what we wanted to drink. We told him and also put our orders in, which consisted of the Potage Alligator au Sherry (alligator soup), Gombo Creole (seafood gumbo), Pommes de Terre Soufflees (fried potatoes that fluff up like pillows), Gateaux de Crabs aux Horseradish (crab cakes) and Grillades et Grits. They also serve a Baked Alaskan type of dessert called Omelette Alaska Antoine which they specify to order at the beginning of the meal, so we did.
After we placed the order our waiter showed up with our soups about five minutes later. This gave us the false impression after our initial long wait, the service was going to be pretty good. The alligator soup was delicious. It basically tasted like a turtle soup but made with alligator. The seafood gumbo was a huge disappointment. The menu said it contained shrimp, oysters, and crab. It contained three small shrimp, ONE oyster and no crab at all. Not even shreds of crabmeat. And the broth had more of a vegetable broth flavor to it than seafood. Probably because of the tons of okra in it.
Now, the wait began. I forgot to mention a busboy brought us out a nice, hot loaf of crusty French bread and butter right before the soup came. He also kept refilling our water glasses. Maybe twenty minutes after the soup came he brought us another. About 25 minutes after that he asked us if we wanted a third. I told him no, we were tired of bread and water. We haven’t seen our waiter in forty-five minutes so I’m tired of bread and want some FOOD! He said he’d notify our waiter. So our waiter finally shows up and says they’re short staffed today and apologizes for the wait.
At about 1:45 PM, and hour and fifteen minutes after we were seated, our waiter brings out the potatoes. The funny thing about that is when we were ordering, I saw the crab cakes didn’t come with any sides so I planned to order the potatoes to go with the crab cakes. Before I could do it the waiter suggested we get the potatoes to GO WITH OUR ENTREES. I told him he was reading my mind. I did indeed want the potatoes, to GO WITH OUR ENTREE! SO he brings the potatoes. They were very good. In fact we ate them slowly to try to save some to go with our entrees. Didn’t work. We finished them because our entrees didn’t come out until 2:06 PM.
The crab cakes were excellent. The grillades and grits were pretty good, but nothing to brag about. I told the waiter to cancel the dessert. I told him it took an hour and 36 minutes to get out entrees so I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day waiting for dessert.
About the entrees, one good thing about Antoine’s is you won’t need a doggie bag. The portions are so small you’ll finish them. In fact, you may leave hungry as I did. Or maybe that was just because the entire dining experience took about two hours.
We asked for the check, then a waiter we had never seen comes out and asked how we were doing as he put a bowl of chocolate sauce on the table. I said we were fine. He said, “Y’all are about to be doing a lot better because you have a free dessert coming out for your anniversary.” So now we were trapped. No check, chocolate sauce on the table, and an unknown dessert coming out in an undetermined amount of time.
About seven minutes later our waiter shows up with what he called “Peach Melba”. The menu list it as “Peche Melba”, and described it as candied peaches with vanilla ice cream, raspberry sauce and chopped almonds. It was ok. I wasn’t wild about it.
We finally got the check and the waiter again apologized, and said he was only charging us for one entrée since we had to wait so long and it was our anniversary. It’s nice when they try to make things right. That also illustrates that it’s good to complain when things aren’t as they should be! The place has such a great reputation I think we just caught them on a bad day, but after being in operation for 178 years you’d think they’ve had enough time to get their act together.
713 St. Louis St., New Orleans, LA 70130 Ph: 504-581-4422