This is a guest post by Susan Guillory of The Unexplorer.
If you visit New Orleans for the first time and end up on Bourbon Street, you might assume there’s nothing for the grownup with discerning tastes. You’d be wrong. While, yes, there is a sea of 2-foot-tall plastic drink cups and young people who seem to think New Orleans gives them license to act ridiculous, if you look, there’s still a tradition of Old-Worldness that lingers, if you know where to look.
Setting the Scene
When offered a complimentary meal at Antoine’s, the oldest French-Creole restaurant in the United States, courtesy of the New Orleans Convention Center & Bureau, I jumped at the chance. Antoine’s has a reputation for elegance and fine dining, so naturally, we couldn’t miss the experience.
To set the mood right for our night of Old World New Orleans, my husband and I made a few drink stops first. I chose Pimm’s Cup as my beverage of choice for the evening. New Orleans has a few classic drinks, and this is one of them, despite it being originally from London. We started off in our hotel bar/restaurant, Compère Lapin, where they made a delightful version of the Pimm’s Cup with mulled wine spices. We continued on to the Carousel Bar, another Old World institution. My mother, who grew up a few hours away from New Orleans, was excited to hear I went there and to Antoine’s, which is a testament to their long-standing reputations.
Hungry for the Experience
Sufficiently warmed and happy from the drinks, we headed over to Antoine’s. We were ushered in by a friendly maître d’, who took us through the mirrored front dining room to a large room in the back that reminded me of a Bavarian hall, in a good way. Just after the New Year, the Christmas tree still stood in the corner, and swaths of greenery hung elegantly from the rafters.
One thing I noticed immediately was that the average age of the wait staff was about 60. Clearly, Antoine’s is a good employer, and pays decently! Our waiter, Sterling (perfect name for the occasion), gave us info about the day’s specials, and we landed quickly on what we wanted.
I ordered the Ponchartrain Pompano, a succulent white fish topped generously with crab meat, as well as the crawfish bisque. My husband ordered the filet de boeuf. We also had an appetizer of pommes soufflees. If you like oysters or snails, this would be the place to order them, as there were several versions on the menu, but alas, I am allergic.
All the food was cooked to perfection, and we managed to save room for a dessert of Crème renversée, a creamy concoction somewhere between a Crème brulée and flan.
The entire visit, I felt like I was in the 1940s. I’m a sucker for anything vintage, so the vibe was just what I was looking for.
Need to know:
Reservations are always a good idea, especially in peak season.
The Carousel Bar is just a few blocks away, as is Arnaud’s French 75, so make a night of it with a few more classic Old World New Orleans spots that serve fantastic cocktails.
If you go:
Antoine’s Restaurant (504) 581-4422
713 Saint Louis Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Article and photography by travel writer Susan Guillory. I received a complimentary meal at Antoine’s, however all opinions are my own.