Skip to main content

Vigil Mass, or, A Friday Lunch at Galatoire’s

I was halfway through my pompano when a man in a gray wool suit stood up from his table along the mirrored wall and began to play the trumpet. In from Bourbon Street, a brass band filed to join him, raising their trombones above the rhinestone crowns of the women celebrating a birthday, angling their tubas between large men who’d pushed out their chairs.  was packed that day, Friday lunch a week after the plague had temporarily abated, and months before Ida would wallop the city — and the bayou communities to our south — hard.

All the tables — and then some — had been brought back in. The drummer kept his elbows tight, laughing as he passed the trumpeter in the fine gray suit. “Do What You Wanna,” they were playing, a Rebirth tune.

Friday lunch at Galatoire’s is ritual and reunion. As server John Fontenot, a 54 year veteran of the 116 year-old restaurant, once put it, “It’s like going to church; you meet all your friends.” When John was hospitalized with COVID during 2020’s awful spring, the whole city worried, reading newspaper updates aloud to each other over the phone. But he was there that day, a bouquet of wine glasses in his hand, as was Alicia, a waiter who trained under the waiter depicted in a photograph of her birthday party at Galatoire’s the year she turned eight.

Really, everyone was there: football matriarch Olivia Manning, and my cousin John, and the ghost of Tennessee Williams, and the ghost of my mother’s first dinner date, who dropped an oyster in the water carafe because she’d dropped an oyster in the water carafe, and a wine distributor my husband knew, and the family friend I once asked to prom. (He turned me down.) No one had seen anyone in a year, and everyone kept standing up to kiss each other on the cheek, spilling lapsful of French bread crumbs onto the mosaic tile.

Read more…

Leave a Reply