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Famed restaurant gives New Orleanians a chance to reconnect

NEW ORLEANS—Since it opened 100 years ago, Galatoire's restaurant on Bourbon Street has made itself famous by not changing. Its walls use the same elegant decor, its menu features the same French Creole dishes and its regular customers often come from the same families that frequented it generations ago.

Hundreds of Galatoire's faithful gathered in a photographer's gallery in the French Quarter on Sunday for the release of "Galatoire's Cookbook," which commemorates the restaurant's 100th year with recipes such as trout meuniere amandine and souffle potatoes. The release was a tease to the future, customers said, along with a chance to visit the French Quarter and reconnect with friends they usually see while table-hopping at the restaurant, which has been closed since Hurricane Katrina damaged it.

"If you listen to the talk among the people here, this is bigger than just Galatoire's. Everyone needed this," said Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, a city council member who attended the release. "There will be a long line around it when it reopens."

Hundreds waited in line to buy the cookbook, a scene familiar to Galatoire's customers, who wait in long lines for legendary Friday lunches. Despite its popularity—Tennessee Williams even mentioned it in his play "A Streetcar Named Desire"—the restaurant doesn't take reservations.

Joanne Riccobono, a native New Orleanian, said it was the first cookbook she'd purchased since her 100 or so "drowned" after the hurricane. Melvin Rodrigue, the restaurant's general manager, signed it: "Here's to rebuilding your cookbook collection."

"It's very appropriate that this is the first," Riccobono said. "It's an icon. The city is coming back little by little."

David Gooch, great-grandnephew of Galatoire's founder Jean Galatoire, said they'd maintain traditions when the restaurant reopened in January, after roof repairs and new refrigeration was installed; he expects trouble filling lower-level jobs, but the wait staff will remain the same, so customers can still choose their servers.

A new restaurant, Galatoire's Bistro, will open in Baton Rouge in November, Gooch said, helping to fill the void for displaced New Orleanians.

"When you live here, you just come to Galatoire's. That's just what happens," said Eugene Tilton, a customer from Metairie. "Everybody says hello when you're there."

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("Galatoire's Cookbook," by Melvin Rodrigue with Jyl Benson, photographs by Louis Sahuc and Eugenia Uhl, Clarkson Potter Publishers, $35.)

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(Gumbretch reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.)

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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