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For more than 180 years, Antoine’s has been serving fine French-Creole cuisine within the heart of New Orleans’s iconic French Quarter — making it the oldest family-run restaurant in the U.S. Dating back to 1840, when a young French chef by the name of Antoine Alciatore set down roots in a location just a block down from the restaurant’s current location, there’s truly no telling the stories that the walls of Antoine’s could tell. However, when walking through the French doors, sitting beside the building’s grand columns and archways, and looking up at the vaulted ceiling, you’re subtly reminded that, if it were, say, a hundred years ago, you’d be dining among the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Pope.
Through the Civil War, two World Wars, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and Hurricane Katrina, Antoine’s has continuously been guided by the Alciatore family lineage. It was Antoine’s son Jules who invented Rockefeller Oysters — one of the greatest culinary creations of all time — in the restaurant’s kitchen, and it was Jules’ son, Roy Alciatore, who led the restaurant through the nation’s most challenging times.
Today, Antoine’s is known to be the birthplace of numerous dishes that are widely considered to be emblematic of classic New Orleans cuisine — or, as they like to call it, “Haute Creole.” Now, as the family business continues into its fifth generation, Antoine’s continues to serve as the standard for authentic NOLA cuisine.
With nearly 200 years of business, Antoine’s has a long history written by the Alciatore family. Then just 18 years old, Antoine Alciatore founded Antoine’s in 1840, naming it after himself. Antoine’s fiancée soon came from New York to join him, and by 1868, the restaurant’s crowd began to surpass its size. That year, Antoine’s was relocated just a block away to its current location on St. Louis Street. But, less than 10 years later, Antoine fell ill. While he would pass less than a year after that, his son Jules went on to cook in the kitchens of Paris and, not long after his return home, took his father’s place at Antoine’s.
Jules went on to invent numerous iconic New Orleans dishes, from Rockefeller Oysters – named after the richest man in the world – to Pompano en Papillote, among others. But, while it was his legacy that cemented Antoine’s as an emblem of French-Creole cuisine, it was his son Roy who carried the business through the Prohibition era and World War II. Then, after Roy died in 1972, his nephews took over as the restaurant’s fourth generation of leadership. From 2005 to now, Antoine’s has been in the hands of Roy’s grandson, Rick Blount, who continues to carry on the family’s legacy.
Dining experience and highlights
Fortunately, none of that legacy is amiss from the restaurant experience today. Visitors compare it to a living museum of sorts, with walls of photographs dating back to the restaurant’s beginnings — commemorating Antoine’s most notable guests. From Bill Clinton to Kate Hudson, the “Haute-Creole” cuisine, as they’ve termed it, served inside the restaurant’s historic French-Colonial facade has drawn in some big names.
With more than 15 rooms, three of which are named after historic Mardi Gras krewes and their memorabilia, and another named “The 1840 Room,” the atmosphere is as much of an attraction as the food. After your meal, you may even be fortunate enough to be invited on a tour to view them all.
Still, ambiance isn’t everything. But, that’s no problem at Antoine’s — a restaurant that’s virtually synonymous with Creole fine dining. On the menu, you’ll still find the famous Rockefeller Oysters — the recipe to which is still a family secret – the Pompano Pontchartrain, Eggs Sardu, and Pommes de Terre Soufflés, all of which are regarded as some of New Orleans’ most iconic dishes. The kitchen, which was taken over by Chef Rich Lee in 2019, also turns out some pretty show-stopping desserts, from Louisiana Strawberry Cheesecake to Baked Alaska, and an impressive New Orleans brunch with live jazz on Sundays. At Antoine’s, what you eat is as much of a history lesson as what you see, but it’s all equally as good for your soul.