While the French Quarter of New Orleans gets most of the travel press, there’s a charm to getting away from the hustle and tourism fuss of that historic district and sampling the rest of the city – the locals’ New Orleans.
On a recent travel press tour of the Crescent City, I had the chance to hop a cab and get outside of the more oft trod streets of downtown for dinner at Ralph’s on the Park. Owned by Ralph Brennan – a major player in one of New Orleans’ most prolific restauranteur families. Set across City Park Street from that venue’s main entrance, Ralph’s interior is tastefully designed to resemble the dining room of a Louisiana plantation home.
The staff has completely mastered the art of New Orleans formal – serious and attention with just enough southern friendliness and hospitality to put the diner at ease. Anyone who strolls into Ralph’s and treats any member of its waitstaff with impatience or dissatisfaction with the quality of the service must be a deeply miserable cuss of a person. Ralph’s exists to make the high end diner feel welcome.
The cuisine of Chef Chip Flanagan combines traditional southern comfort food with the bayou’s regional seafood and other locally sourced ingredients. I would recommend the Sherry Shrimp Grits as an appetizer and the Roasted Whole Gulf Fish and Chappapeela Farms Duck Breast.
Never looking to avoid its proud New Orleans heritage, Ralph’s dessert selection include its own take on Bananas Foster Bread Pudding and Almond Peach Cake. The Chocolate Bar (below) struck me as the richest and prettiest plate presentation.
After a stellar meal, I spotted Ralph Brennan himself strolling the floor to check on his dining room guests. His family name helped shaped much of the New Orleans dining experience and will continue to do so, so the man understands how a Big Easy gentleman and entrepreneur must present himself. Polite and friendly Brennan manages to project mixable class, always showing genuine concern for the customers .
And, he’s always willing to discuss economic and business developments in his city. He’s a good man to ask if you want to understand how Nee Orleans is developing and growing more than a decade on from Katrina,
Any traveler sitting foot in New Orleans should see all of the standard stops of the French Quarter. But, he or she should save time and appetite for Ralph’s – one of the outlying area’s fining dining experiences.