I live in Boston and have been traveling to New Orleans, primarily for JazzFest, for 18 years. I flew down for a meeting in Lake Charles today, and even though I was 200 miles away, I couldn't be that close to New Orleans and not stop in for a brief visit. So I booked myself a suite at the Windsor Court ($235 a night may sound expensive, but it's free compared to JazzFest rates!) and set out to find a nice dinner. Plan A was to go to Jacques-Imo's. Notwithstanding that I've been here more than 20 times over the last 18 years, I have never made it to Jacques-Imos. I figured tonight was the perfect night: I was dining along, and I could sit at the bar, enjoy the atmosphere, and not care at all about how big the crowds might be or how long it took to be served. I was disappointed to pull up in front, however, to discover that they were closed (I didn't get out of my car, but I'm guessing that they're taking a summer vacation). So I had to quickly figure out a plan B when I realized how close I was to Brigtsen's.
Now I'm pretty comfortable doing lots of things alone, including going to movies and theater, and eating alone at place like Jacques-Imo's, or even fancier places like Union Square Cafe in NYC, where you can sit at the bar and order from the full menu. I was not sure, however, how I felt dining alone at a place like Brigtsen's. But I missed it during Fest this year and decided it had been far too long since I had eaten there to be concerned about how others felt about my sitting at a table by myself. (Plus, I had my Blackberry with me, so I could keep myself entertained reading e-mails and surfing the 'net.)
I am pleased to report that it absolutely was the right decision. Sandy and Janet made be most comfortable, and I resisted the urge to order the duck or the crusted gulf fish like I normally do, and ordered the seafood platter at the Hounds' recommendation. I was so glad I did; it was just magnificant. I started with a bowl of file gumbo with chicken and duck, finished with the pecan pie with caramel sauce, and complemented my meal with a very nice $25 half-bottle of Merlot and a great cup of coffee (the only time I can remember being served such a good cup of coffee was at La Grenouille in NYC).
And to top off a wonderful evening, I overhead a couple at an adjacent table tell the waitress that they had discovered Brigtsen's through Chowhound. As I left, I stopped by their table to let them know I'd be looking out for their review. (I also learned that they had discovered Chowhound through the same Calvin Trillin article in The New Yorker that I had, and that they had some fantasy about the Cardinals winning the World Series.)