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Antoine's Restaurant, October 2007
|Food type||Louisiana Creole cuisine|
|Street address||713 Rue St. Louis (St. Louis Street)|
|Website||Antoine's official website|
Antoine's is a Louisiana Creole cuisine restaurant located at 713 rue St. Louis (St. Louis Street) in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. It has the distinction of being the oldest family run restaurant in the United States, having been established in 1840 by Antoine Alciatore. A New Orleans institution, it is notable for being the "inventor" of several famous dishes, such as Oysters Rockefeller, Pompano en Papillote, Eggs Sardou and Pigeonneaux Paradis. Antoine's Cookbook, compiled by Roy F. Guste (the fifth-generation proprietor) features hundreds of recipes from the Antoine's tradition. The restaurant is also known for its VIP patrons (including several U.S. presidents and Pope John Paul II).
Antoine's features a 25,000 bottle capacity wine storage and 14 dining rooms of varying sizes and themes, with several featuring Mardi Gras krewe memorabilia. The lengthy menu (originally only in French, now in French and English) features classic French-Creole dishes. By tradition, Antoine's is closed to the general public on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mardi Gras. The restaurant can be reserved for private parties on these "Closed Days." Advance reservations are required for dining during Mardi Gras and on weekends. The executive chef as of November 2012 is Michael Regua.
In the late 1800s Antoine's son Jules took over running the restaurant. Jules perfected the recipes for what would become its signature dishes, including oysters Rockefeller, escargots a la bourguignonne, souffleed potatoes and baked Alaska.
Jules also acquired property around the original restaurant as it became available, including a former slave quarters and carriage house. Antoine's eventually could accommodate 800 people in its 14 dining rooms. Each dining room was decorated according to a theme, many of the themes referencing a Mardi Gras krewe, such as Rex, Proteus, Twelfth Night or Maison Verte.
Cellars are not practical in New Orleans because the water table basically begins a couple of inches below the surface. Therefore, Antoine's has what is best described as a "wine alley", a corridor 165 feet (50 m) long, lined by wine racks and carefully air-conditioned. Guests who are present at closing time are sometimes offered a tour of Antoines, which includes the 14 dining rooms and many display cases full of Antoine's memorabilia.
Antoine is also known for Cafe Brulot, a drink made from coffee, orange liqueur, cinnamon stick, sugar, cloves and lemon peels. At Antoine's, the coffee is customarily flamed when it is served as part of a dessert course.
Antoine's requires all aspiring servers to spend two to three years in its apprentice program before they "make waiter."
In the Bugs Bunny cartoon French Rarebit (1951), a reference to Antoine's plays a pivotal role, as Bugs convinces two Parisian chefs to let him show them how to cook "Louisiana Back-Bay Bayou Bunny Bordelaise", exclusively because it is "a la Antoine". "Antoine of New Orleans?" the first chef asks, awestruck. "I don't mean Antoine of Flatbush", Bugs replies. In the film Apocalypse Now, Chef (Frederic Forrest), a character from New Orleans, briefly mentions it.
The book Dinner at Antoine's
Dinner at Antoine's, a 1947 murder mystery by Frances Parkinson Keyes, begins with a dinner party in the 1840 Room and includes another dinner party at Antoine's near the end. Antoine's itself is not pivotal to the plot, which hinges on the murder of a woman from a snobbish-but-impoverished old Creole family, just as she was beginning to face a serious chronic illness. Rather, Antoine's is part of the ambiance of New Orleans, which Keyes depicts as an exotic, half-foreign city whose ways are not easily understood by outsiders, especially those from the North. The novel is notable for its use of the "least likely person" motif in revealing the identity of the murderer, and for a final plot twist that renders the murder and its aftermath even more tragic. Antoine's is mentioned in other novels by Keyes, including Once on Esplanade, Crescent Carnival, The River Road, and its sequel, Vail D'Alvery. Dinner at Antoine's was Keyes's only murder mystery and her best-selling and best-known book.
Appearance in the film JFK
Antoine's was used for the filming of two sequences in Oliver Stone's 1991 movie, JFK. The first, which is quite brief, shows the Garrison family waiting for their father in the mirrored Main Dining Room. In the second, which lasts several minutes, Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner) has lunch with his staff in the Large Annex Room. At the beginning of the segment, he is greeted by the real maitre d'hôtel, Henri Alciatore, a direct descendant of the founder.
The French Quarter was above the flooding that devastated the majority of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (see: Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans), but Antoine's suffered from the hurricane winds which damaged part of the roof and knocked down a section of exterior wall. The extensive contents of Antoine's wine cellar were also lost due to a failure in the climate-control system; as of June 2006, the cellar is slowly being replenished, $10,000 per week being devoted to new purchases. The restaurant was able to reopen on December 29, 2005. In the wake of Katrina, Antoine's has added its first-ever Sunday Jazz Brunch program.
- "Antoine's is her family legacy, but is she ready?". Molly Hennessy-Fiske, The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- "Local outfits battle for hot wing supremacy". Bryce Crawford, Colorado Springs Independent. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
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