New dining traditions in Baton Rouge
Tennessee Williams once had a regular table at Galatoire’s. It stood by a window facing Bourbon Street where he watched the cavalcade of humanity that is New Orleans pass by. He loved the establishment so much he even had Blanche and Stella DuBois take a girl’s night out to Galatoire’s in the beginning of A Streetcar Named Desire. The tables that line the windows at the Baton Rouge location face a parking lot. While no good Southerner could ever imagine Williams sipping on a Ramos Gin Fizz as he watched patrons fumble for the keys to their SUVs, they would reluctantly admit that a sparkly new Galatoire’s by the interstate is better than no Galatoire’s at all. In short, the Baton Rouge bistro is the more practical, less frenetic Stella to the New Orleans location’s Blanche. But don’t dismiss the younger more practical DuBois sister—because she is not without virtue.
The bright tiled main area is almost a dead ringer for the New Orleans location’s dining room. It is a place for table-hopping, glad-handing, and networking. Bentwood chairs surround tables draped in white linen and offer the perfect place for holding court while enjoying a lunch that spills over into mid-afternoon. For most, Galatoire’s will always be a place for celebrations where patriarchs in blue blazers pat the recently promoted or engaged on the back, or where expense accounts pay for a decadent dinner. All of the traditional, French-Creole fare is available. Large entrées that have stood the test of time swim in meuniere, béarnaise, and bordelaise sauces. Unlike the original location, Baton Rouge will accept a reservation. So the rite of passage of waiting in a line on the brick sidewalks of the French Quarter for a table to come available is no longer necessary.
Also the custom of having a waiter with tenure extensive enough to have earned a gold watch and a pension doesn’t exist at the Baton Rouge location. When dining at the new Galatoire’s it is important not to expect to recapture the Deep South soaked romanticism of old New Orleans. Instead, look to create new traditions.
Bypass the noisy hustle and bustle of the dining room and enjoy a more intimate experience in the sophisticated dark wood-panelled bar. This is also a way to sample some of Galatoire’s more interesting smaller dishes and imbibe some of their handcrafted cocktails or a bottle of wine from the extensive cellar—without breaking the bank.
For Galatoire’s reinvention and innovation does not happen easily. That’s why it was an unexpected surprise to see an inspired cocktail menu created especially for the Baton Rouge location. The showstopper of this new menu is a cocktail called the Old World Fashioned. An unlikely combination of Merlot, Bourbon, Angostura and orange bitters marry to form a warm spicy drink with a hint of sweetness. The Grey Goose Cooler is a refreshing vodka and fruit juice cocktail that would pair well with the patio and a seersucker suit during summer months. Of course, all of the famed New Orleans favorites are about—like the Vieux Carre, Sazerac and Galatoire’s 209 Cocktail, a different take on a Pimm’s Cup named after its celebrated New Orleans address.
After a round of drinks, start by ordering a couple of appetizers that are hard to find at most restaurants in Baton Rouge. The escargot is amazing and the extra butter sauce can be sopped up with the house French bread. Of course no one does oysters Rockefeller like Galatoire’s. Their crab ravigote is served on toast points and is a decadent way to enjoy Louisiana fresh crabmeat. For the more adventurous, the duck crepe or the sweetbreads are appealing options.
Or take the soup and salad route. The turtle soup au sherry or the French onion soup pair well with the Godchaux salad featuring boiled shrimp and jumbo lump crabmeat tossed in a creole mustard vinaigrette. In the summer months, bypass hot food all together and order the Galatoire Goute. This sampler consists of two classic Galatoire’s appetizers, the crabmeat maison and shrimp remoulade.
Finish the evening by splitting some bread pudding dripping with banana praline liquor sauce or profiteroles filled with ice cream. Avoid the heavier chocolate dessert drinks and finish with the Baccarat cocktail, a beautiful combination of sparkling wine, Chambord raspberry liquor and Aztec chocolate bitters.
Creating these new traditions makes walking out the front door and being confronted with the gridlock of Perkins Road instead of the foot traffic on Bourbon Street less of a shock to the soul, and the taste of New Orleans can still linger on the lips.
Details. Details. Details.
Galatoire’s Bistro 3535 Perkins Road (225) 753-4864 galatoiresbistro.com