Galatoire’s Friday Lunch

Apparently, there’s going out to lunch and then there’s Galatoires Friday lunch! Always in search for authentic culinary experiences, we love Debi Lander’s account of this long, luxurious, and lively Friday lunch experience that certainly sounds like a delicious slice of life in New Orleans. 

Galatoire's Friday Lunch.

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Friday lunch at Galatoire’s New Orleans

Without a doubt, I’d call Galatoire’s, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the best Friday lunch anywhere in the United States. I’d say the world, but my context for that one is a bit narrower. The event, you can’t fairly call it anything else, begins early. No reservations accepted; so, come early and be prepared; dress is fancy or Sunday attire: women wear dresses, men need jackets.

The experience actually begins outside the restaurant on Bourbon Street, sometime between 7 and 8am. Folks line up to get their name on the highly cherished list maintained by the maitre’d. Professional line sitters serve the experienced; they’ve been doing it for many years. The New Orleans affluent — attorneys, politicians, doctors and so on — pay these guys a going rate of about $20 a head to hold spots. The line sitters come prepared, often bringing a plastic milk crate to sit on.

Sometime after 10am, the maître’ d emerges to record names in order of arrival. Once you have secured your spot, you can go inside to the bar for a cooler, more refreshing wait! Doors to the downstairs dining room, aka the party room (trust me, you don’t want to be upstairs), opens shortly before 11:30am. Again, don’t be late. Your weekend starts now, as no one goes back to work after lunch at Galatoire’s on a Friday! First timers should be forewarned: plan to dine at a leisurely pace, but not in a relaxed atmosphere. The volume increases by the hour.

My group walked past an elegant private dining room to seats in a downstairs room accommodating a maximum of 132. The floor, just black and white tiles capped by ceiling fans showing naked light bulbs, but all still seems regal. The walls feature green and gold fleur-de-lies print, offset simply but elegantly by tables dressed in white linen. Friday lunch is a celebration for whatever reason you desire: a birthday, anniversary, job promotion, retirement, engagement, divorce, or no reason at all. Most tables host parties of six or more, a feature that adds to the fun. The day I went, a long table stretched down the center the room, edged by about 20 beautiful young girls.


The dining room at Galatoire's sister restaurant, 33 Bar and Steak Restaurant.

The dining room at Galatoire’s sister restaurant, 33 Bar and Steak Restaurant.


The crowded seating somehow doesn’t annoy, adding to the frivolity. Table hopping is ceaseless; like a wedding reception where everyone in the room knew the guest of honor and were quick to greet fellow attendees. Both the table in front of and behind mine included men who turned around and asked where we were from. Guess we stood out as non-locals.

Lunch begins with cocktails – no surprise in the Big Easy. I ordered a Sazerac, a whiskey drink created in the city (maybe the only one ) that truly knows how to make them. The mix of rye, Herbsaint, Peychaud’s bitters, simple syrup and a lemon twist served over ice sends a powerful message – delightful and to the point.

Take some time to check out the army of waiters who work this room. They’ve all been employed by Galatoire’s for many years, most growing into coveted jobs handed down by fathers or another family member. Galatoire’s treats the staff like family, even keeping them on the payroll after Hurricane Katrina hit. They go about their business calmly in this crazed atmosphere, never at a loss of grace or pride. Somehow, they manage to maneuver the drinks and food through narrow spaces and darting guests without spilling.


A labelled glass of water in one of New Orlean's classic restaurants.

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What to order at Galatoire’s Friday lunch

After sipping the cocktails, we ordered a tray of seafood appetizer. Known as the Galatoire Goute (pronounced goo-TAY), this treasure combines shrimp remoulade (coated in a tangy sauce), crabmeat maison (bound in Creole mustard aioli with capers, scallions, and lemon), and crayfish salad. The crab serving, all lump meat, tasted absolutely divine.



An appetizer of Goute at Galatoire.

The Galatoire Goute appetizer.


An order of soufflé potatoes, puffy fries as light as helium filled pillows, appeared on our table, then disappeared just as quickly. They are fabulous with or without the Bearnaise sauce. Frying them twice balloons them. Sometime during the end of the appetizer course, a glass of white wine replaced my empty cocktail glass. The decadence was getting into full swing and fittingly, a three-piece band slipped in the door and stopped at the table to honor, according to a charming custom of the place, a birthday girl. See the video below for what that experience is like.


Souffle potatoes at Galatoire.

Souffle Potatoes please at Galatoire’s.


Everyone joined in the song, some rather loudly, particularly those who’d already been drinking for hours. The band exited to a rousing brass rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” To say the music enlivened the already primed group is an understatement. Nonetheless, our ever-faithful waitress managed to squeeze in to take entrée orders.

Galatorie’s is known for seafood and I was happy to hear the special of the day was soft shell crabs. I adore them, but rarely find them on a menu. My choices were simple – “sautéed or fried?” I added a side of creamed spinach. My choice was a popular one, no doubt because the kitchen does amazing things with those critters. The restaurant must go through a thousand a day when in season. I doubt most patrons come to lunch on Friday’s for the culinary treats, but those who do will find it top notch!


Soft shelled crab is a classic people don't always know to order.

Soft shell crab – it’s what’s for on tap for Galatoires friday lunch .


In between bites, the entire gathering either sings someone happy birthday or congratulates someone on an engagement. The atmosphere is spontaneous combustion, energy jumps like a live wire, and it’s, well, electric. To maintain this feeling, drink glasses are refilled as soon as they are emptied. At this point I was on my way to a four-hour lunch, including three cocktails, two soft shell crabs and one helluva good time.


The author joining the napkin-waving, dancing crowd at Galatoire.

The author, Debi Lander, enjoying the napkin-waving, dance around the room to a parade of live music.


Another band entered. More pandemonium. Guests formed a second line, another New Orleans tradition, parading behind the musicians while twirling white napkins in the air. I couldn’t resist joining the revelry. Why not, I was fully embracing Friday lunch at Galatorie’s. If you go to New Orleans, get in line early and experience the Friday soiree off Bourbon Street. You won’t forget it. Well, maybe that depends on how closely you watch your empty drink glass.

— Story and photos by Debi Lander

For more information on Galatoire’s, visit their website, here. And for more information on New Orleans, click here.

A picture showing Galatoire's exterior.

A picture shows Galatoire’s exterior.


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Author:  <a href="" target="_self">Debi Lander</a>

Author: Debi Lander

Debi Lander is a freelance journalist and photographer specializing in travel, food and lifestyle. She currently calls Sarasota, Florida home, but frequently follows an unrelenting desire to get away and explore. While on the road, she enjoys tasting local cuisine from hole-in-the-wall eateries to fine dining and wine establishments. Debi is a member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association and Society of American Travel Writers. Her website,, features published stories from her global adventures and a link to her travel journal: The Luggage Diaries. Her food blog, Bylandersea-Food Tales, offers restaurant, product, and cookbook reviews as well as recipe triumphs and failures in her own kitchen.

1 Comment

  1. Kathy Brunner

    Ate at Galatoire’s awhile back. It was an absolute blast, not to mention how amazingly wonderful the food was! Thank you for recapturing the memory so well. It should be on everyone’s “must-do” list.

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