Antoine's, included with $20.12 lunch
Early in the 19th century, Chef Antoine Alciatore was already making a name for himself in his native France when he felt the pull of the New World and its seemingly limitless possibilities. New York was a crude disappointment so he struck out again for New Orleans; the booming cotton town proved a welcoming home for his extravagant tastes and French traditions. In 1840, the 27-year-old established Antoine's, which quickly became one of the city's best-reputed restaurants. In 1874, Antoine left the restaurant in the capable hands of his wife and children (including son Jules, inventor of Oysters Rockefeller) and returned to France in 1874 to die. His namesake restaurant went on to become the United States' oldest family run restaurant.
What with its white tablecloths and attentive service, Antoine's is not the kind of place I normally have the opportunity to visit, but a generous lunch special puts it within the realm of possibility: an appetizer, entree, and dessert for $20.12, along with martinis for $0.25 each. Dessert choices included a classic cheesecake with berry sauce, a nut-studded bread pudding smothered in caramel sauce, and "meringue glace", a crisp meringue nest topped with ice cream, toasted almonds, and fudge sauce.
In between tucking in your chair and setting fire to Baked Alaska, Antoine's servers are more that than happy to answer questions about the business or the maze-like building, the restaurant's home since 1868. At lunch, most diners eat in the "Large Annex", a dim cavern wallpapered in the autographed photos of Antoine's hundreds of illustrious visitors; it's perfectly acceptable to browse and gawk as long as you don't get in anyone's way.