Galatoire's Restaurant on Bourbon Street opened in 1905, when Jean Galatoire bought a restaurant that had been on that site since 1837 and renamed it.
Surrounded by strip clubs and touristy hurricane bars now, it remains an oasis of timeless grace, once you push past the double doors and enter the lobby.
Regulars here ask for their favorite waiter, who knows their preferences. Many folks never look at the menu, trusting the waiter to bring them something they will enjoy. Some folks even maintain a tab at Galatoire's - a monthly bill is mailed to their address.
At dinner gentlemen must wear jacket and tie. Lunch is more relaxed; business casual is allowed. Friday lunches are so popular the lines form hours ahead - there are no reservations at Galatoire's.
I stepped into the hushed lobby from the moist beery fumes of Bourbon Street a little after one o'clock. I was immediately ushered to an immaculate table facing the room. Although I normally find being called "ma'am" a little odd, in this place it was perfect.
It's a high-ceilinged room, the walls lined with mirrors framed in white painted wordwork. There are brass hooks for your coat and hat. Above, green wallpaper patterned with gold fleur-de-lis, and from the ceiling, paddle-bladed fans hang over the tables.
It's a loud room, the relaxed and festive voices of the crowd - mostly men in suits - bounce off the hexagonal tile floor.
There were ladies, too - of two varieties. One wore vacation garb, whites and dressy sandals and cool linen blouses, their fair hair brushed back off their foreheads. The other type wore business suits or day dresses, heels, and delicate jewelry.
My waiter brought a crusty french roll and a butter dish, and my chilled glass of chardonnay. The flatware was polished silver. I ordered an appetizer combo featuring crabmeat maison and shrimp remoulade - two classic offerings that have been served here since the place opened.
At some point the matire d' stopped by my table and greeted me in a polite Southern drawl, and asked if I had been here before. Was I from here or from out of town? I told him my story - I was with my husband here on business, but on my own while he worked - and he wished me a pleasant stay.
I felt I could have been a character in a book, or a history written forty years ago. I felt wrapped in tradition, grace, and gentility. How rare and strange this is - you can preserve buildings, but it's a marvel to take a historical atmosphere and preserve that.