Thank god I love gumbo. I ate it 4 times in the 48 hour time period that my husband and I were in New Orleans celebrating our 13-year wedding anniversary. To say that gumbo is a pretty big deal in New Orleans would be an understatement. Actually, delicious food, in general, is a big deal in New Orleans… especially seafood. This is particularly good news for me, because I prefer seafood to mammal meat and poultry. I’ll have the fish.
If you read my recent blog post about our amazing hotel stay at The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, you already know about the delicious bites we had there. And now I’m going to share with you the other culinary highlights from our first ever visit to The Big Easy.
Our first dinner was at GW Fins, where we had to make our Saturday night dinner reservation at 9:15pm due to the popularity of this place, especially on the weekends. For two parents that are used to having dinner with their young children at 5:30pm, a 9:15 dinner is late. But the good news was that when we arrived early, we had a seat at the bar and enjoyed some wine and a salad. As soon as we finished up our wedge salad, the hostess came over to seat us. Perfect timing.
The vibe of GW Fins struck me as very “Palm Beach-esque” due to its color scheme, decor and no-jacket-required dress code. But even with no jackets required, it’s obvious that this restaurant attracts a totally we’ve-got-plenty-of-jackets crowd. I call it Casual Fancy, and it’s my fave type of vibe. Sure, you’re being treated well and the food presentations qualify as “fancy”. But you can wear some slacks and a collared shirt or say, fun sequined pants, like I did, and be completely appropriate.
When we arrived at our booth, there sat a rolled up menu printed especially for us, with our name and the date on it in honor of our anniversary. That was a first. What a unique way to remember a special meal (they also comped our dessert – sweet!). Although we had already shared a wedge salad at the bar, we OBVIOUSLY still had to try the Lobster Dumplings. I love a dumpling, and these were absolutely delicious. As for entrées, my husband went with the American Red Snapper (he loved it), and I ordered their famous Scalibut, a GW Fins original. It’s halibut with thinly sliced scallops, on top of lobster risotto with snow peas, and it’s the BEST seafood dish I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’m not exaggerating. If you love white fish and savory, creamy foods, you’re going to be obsessed with the Scalibut. And the cherry on top was our delicious coconut dessert. What an incredible meal.
Our second dinner was at Galatoire’s Restaurant, where jackets ARE required. Even so, the atmosphere is loud and friendly and relaxed. Its a great restaurant, and it gave me a bit of an old school New York vibe, with excellent service and high quality food.
My husband started with a wedge salad (he loves wedge salads, can you tell?), while I started with, you guessed it, seafood gumbo. Both were good along with the warm bread they served us. Moving onto our entrées, Ryan went with a filet mignon, topped with shrimp, and I opted for two half plates – Shrimp au Vin and Crabmeat Yvonne. He certainly enjoyed his steak and shrimp (duh), and I absolutely devoured mine, especially the Shrimp au Vin. Another creamy, savory meal, this dish of Louisiana shrimp with white wine sauce, mushrooms, green onion and rice, was right up my alley, y’all. I think I could be totally happy if all I had to eat forever was the GW Fins Scalibut and the Galatoire’s Shrimp au Vin…. and beignets… but we’ll get to those in a minute.
While I’m still obsessing over my Galatoire’s meal, I must say that the other main standout was the way they treated birthday guests. There were multiple birthdays being celebrated there that night, and the way the entire restaurant joyfully joined in singing Happy Birthday to each person with just as much enthusiasm as the one they did 6 minutes ago, made me want to lie and tell them it was my birthday, just to be a bigger part of the fun. Looking for a great seafood birthday meal in New Orleans? I found your spot.
Last, but not least, let’s talk Café Du Monde. I had heard about this legendary New Orleans staple for years from lots of media sources and people, including Kim Kardashian, whom is apparently pretty obsessed with their famed beignets. When we arrived at the open-air café on a Sunday morning, we joined dozens of others in a long line that led right inside. As we inched closer to the sweet smell in the air, my husband realized that we were in a line behind a bunch of people that didn’t know it was open seating. So as they continued to wander around, he went and snagged us a table that had only seconds ago been vacated. A server promptly came over and cleaned it off then took our order. On the menu? Beignets & beverages. That’s it. “Do you have creamer and sweetener?” I asked. “We have black coffee or café au lait .” (Half coffee, half milk) “I’ll take the one with the milk.” So off she scurried to grab our order, and I realized that one really doesn’t need to sweeten one’s coffee when having it with beignets. You could literally sprinkle some of the powdered sugar off the top of it into your cup of joe if you REALLY needed sweetener. There was no lack of powdered sugar up in this place, which got me pretty excited. She returned pretty quickly with our order – 2 orders of beignets (they come 3 to a plate), 1 black coffee and 1 coffee au lait. We paid her right then and there (cash only) then dug in. Oh. My. God. Yep, they were just as delicious as I had hoped they’d be. It’s tough when we have such high expectations for something, especially food. It just doesn’t always turn out the way we imagined. But this did. The beignets were fresh. The coffee was delish. And I didn’t miss my sweetener at all. I love a simple business plan like they have at Café Du Monde. The menu is small, therefore the focus is extremely concentrated. They make delicious beignets and coffee. The end. The only downside? The damn birds. But as a person that has a fear of birds, I’m always more bothered by them more than the average bear.
I must also mention that we had lunches at both Gumbo Shop and French Market Cafe. I had gumbo at both places, of course, and it was very good. We even grabbed 4 bottles of Gumbo Shop’s garlic hot sauce to bring home with us. Believe it or not, I didn’t even know that hot sauce on gumbo was a thing until this trip. I’ve been missing out!
And to finish off our weekend perfectly, on our final day in NOLA, we spontaneously decided to go back to Café Du Monde for a second time to devour more fried dough and powdered sugar. What can I say? When in Rome…