I don’t often recommend Ralph’s-on-the-Park because I enjoy going there and, when I go, I like to read the Wall Street Journal with minimal interruptions. The staff at Ralph’s-on-the-Park is professional, the ambience is suitable for my surroundings, I enjoy the view out the plate glass windows that overlook the old main entrance to City Park (Pizatti Gate) and the ancient live oak trees with their branches that go down to the ground and back up again, and, the food is very good at Ralph’s-on-the-Park. Ralph’s-on-the-Park is reasonably priced for what you get.
Ralph Brennan, Ralph, is a restauranteur’s restauranteur. He is a savvy businessman. He knows the restaurant business. There are very few new faces at Ralph’s-on-the-Park. Even after the pandemic, the team is still in place. Everyone is back. Everyone tells me that Ralph takes care of his people. Ralph and I rarely talk but Ralph’s-on-the-Park has always taken care of me and everyone I know.
It is very rare to see a photo of Frau Schmitt here on the blog so before anyone gets the idea that that is a picture of Frau Schmitt leading off today’s installment of La Belle Esplanade’s journal, it is not.
I went to Ralph’s-on-the-Park the other day to meet Serra, the massage therapist. I always call her a masseuse but she doesn’t like that. I also call airline attendants, or whatever they are supposed to be called nowadays, stewards and stewardesses. I call the mailman the mailman regardless of gender. I am the most mild version of Archie Bunker you have ever met.
A lot of regulars go to Ralph’s-on-the-Park. I got there early, naturally, to get a head start on the day’s Wall Street Journal. It has been months since I was last at Ralph’s-on-the-Park during the day. Before that, it had been years. The old regulars all showed up. I’m not going to tell you who they were. That is none of your business. I had to reserve a seat for Serra next to me because it was getting kind of crowded around me with the old gang catching up.
I tend to spread out, what with the newspaper unfolded and various pens and notebooks and my monocle holder. I prefer when we have a seat between us but it was getting crowded. Serra doesn’t bother me at all. We have a routine. I read the Wall Street Journal and she looks at her phone. We occasionally talk about something or other. We don’t arrive or leave at the same time. Serra has things to do, as do I. We are very busy people in our own ways. Our paths cross from time to time. It is like the unexpected appearance of a firefly. Serra said that, not me.
It turns out that Serra and Tito live in the same neighborhood. Tito is a very professional bartender. He is a joy to watch in action. It’s like improvisational ballet, or watching a plate spinner. It has been so long since I have seen such a good bartender that I had to formally tip my fedora in Tito’s direction. It has been too long.
Tito and Eric are the backbone of this operation. Both are bartenders extraordinaire. They have different personalities but they make a good team. They have worked together for many years. Practice makes perfect. I like to sit at the bar at Ralph’s-on-the-Park for the view but I wouldn’t sit there if it weren’t for the attention to detail, professional pride, and intelligent conversation that rules the barroom.
There was an Eddie Murphy movie on the TV, sound off. The movie was Coming to America. Who could forget it? Tito and I had a long conversation about John Amos’s career before Serra showed up. Neither one of us said, “Dyn-O-mite!” though Jimmy Walker’s name did come up. Tori Amos’s name did not. Tito knows what he’s talking about.
When Serra was halfway through her bowl of turtle soup, I told Tito that I wanted something to complain about so I ordered the salmon toast for $11.00. Here’s how the menu describes it: “Smoked Salmon Toast: Housemade Country Bread, Cucumbers, Pickled Red Onion, Whipped Jalapeño Cream Cheese, Dill.” I didn’t have high hopes. These things are usually a gyp, especially at eleven bucks.
Here is what it looked like:
You know what? It was delicious. I ate the whole thing with gusto and I ate crow afterward when I told Tito I had nothing to complain about. I am going to take Frau Schmitt here for lunch next. She will love this. The whole thing is put together with tweezers, artfully arranged. I’m telling you, though the menu doesn’t mention it, that is Louisiana bowfin caviar on those cucumbers. I’m telling you, this was a very refreshing and satisfying lunch. Frau Schmitt is going to love it. Full report to follow. Stay tuned and keep those cards and letters coming, folks!
So, I read the Wall Street Journal while Serra looked at her phone and talked with the other people. Serra is not a regular here but she fit right in. I used to be a regular and I was the odd duck out. Serra and I talked, too, between me reading Wall Street Journal articles and her talking to everyone and looking at her phone. Serra has Wednesdays off and I am looking to change my routine. I can’t keep writing this blog 2-3-4 times a week if I keep doing the same things over and over again. There wouldn’t be anything to write about. I know. I’ve tried.
I asked Tito to take a photo of Serra the masseuse and your humble narrator for posterity. I needed something to illustrate the blog and regular readers know I am a ham for the camera.
I am not writing this down to remember it today. I am writing it down to remember it next year. When I’m down on my luck, I will want to remember something that will cheer me up. Every day in New Orleans is a mosaic made up of little good memories that, when assembled, will make you smile for the rest of your life. Better a day having lunch in New Orleans than being at work.
Eric eventually took over for Tito behind the bar. The whole day was like winning the trifecta. I can’t wait to take Frau Schmitt to try this smoked salmon. I am the first to wrinkle my nose at these things. If I liked it, she is going to love it.
When you are ready to Visit New Orleans like you live here, I know where you should stay. La Belle Esplanade has been ranked the #1 place to stay in New Orleans, #1 in Louisiana, #2 in the United States, and #16 in the world, as I never get tired of saying. Read our blog. Poke around our website to learn what we are about. Read our 700+ reviews on TripAdvisor. When you are ready, La Belle Esplanade will be here for you. Frau Schmitt and I look forward to sharing this wonderful city we call home.