Sign Up for Our Daily Newsletter
It took two years to decide whether or not to renovate the Omni
Royal Orleans Hotel’s signature restaurant, an award-winning
establishment at the bustling corner of St. Louis and Royal streets
in the French Quarter of New Orleans. And the decision to perform
the restoration had little to do with hotel patrons.
Changing the Rib Room and its woody Old English atmosphere after 40
years might disturb the locals and their intense loyalties to New
Orleans’ cuisine and restaurants, said Julie Noto, general
“We were worried natives would get mad at the redesign,” Noto said.
“It took them two years to decide.”
When management resolved to go forth with the $1.7 million
renovation, they kept locals’ interests in mind, she said.
So far, no one’s complaining. In fact, the first redesign in 44
years caused such publicity that Marc Becker, director of marketing
for the hotel, has witnessed 30 to 40 percent of the clientele
being those “who have rediscovered the Rib Room since the
reopening” in November.
“The overall consensus has been really, really positive,” Becker
No doubt locals are pleased that little has been changed to the
cozy atmosphere, including the expansive ceiling and Old World
charm. Now open to the general public is the Escoffier Room, once a
private, secluded smoking room for male patrons, now a semi-private
dining room that seats up to 28 and overlooks the Rib Room through
Also unchanged is the dedicated service of Dalton Milton, the Rib
Room’s maitre d’ for the past 44 years who’s famous for recognizing
“I had a friend call and ask me to make reservations,” Becker
explained. “It had been 10 years, and Milton knew them well. It’s
an art form.”
The Rib Room is only one reason to stay at the Omni Royal Orleans
Hotel. The historic establishment commands half a city block in the
French Quarter, situated next to several famous restaurants,
antique shopping on Royal Street and mere blocks from Jackson
Square and Canal Street. Although the original St. Louis Hotel
burned at this site years before, the Omni has been painfully
recreated to mirror its predecessor, including incorporating the
St. Louis’ exterior walls that offer, although faintly, images from
the French Quarter’s past.
The Royal Orleans, as locals know it, was mentioned in Arthur
Hailey’s “Hotel,” and many believe it to be the inspiration for
that novel, which was later made into a movie starring Rod
“Hailey mostly stayed here during research trips,” Becker
explained. “It was definitely largely based on this hotel.”
The award-winning hotel has also been the resting spot of choice to
many celebrities and heads of state.
Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin was so fond of the hotel, he wrote a
song, “Royal Orleans.”
“He was a different kind of client,” Becker said. “He was very
demanding in a nice sort of way.”
When Patti LaBelle received a key to the city, the mayor of New
Orleans arrived by limousine but refused to enter the hotel until
LaBelle came down to the lobby. LaBelle refused to leave her hotel
room until the mayor left his car.
“Finally, we had to lie to both of them to get them together,”
Becker said with a laugh. “Those are the quirks of the hotel
business. You never know what you’re going to be up against.”
Owned and operated by international conglomerate Omni Hotels, the
hotel nevertheless has an authentic New Orleans feel. Complementary
dark-roast Community Coffee, a java of choice among locals, comes
with each room’s coffee maker. An umbrella is placed inside the
closet, since sub-tropical New Orleans receives 60 inches of rain
Balcony rooms overlooking Royal Street offer wrought-iron furniture
to match the railings, flower planters and elegant French doors,
allowing visitors to step back in time as they gaze out on the
historic Quarter strands of beads and traffic, the only reminder of
the 21st century.
The rooftop features a pool, fitness center and La Riviera, a
seasonal restaurant. Be sure and visit at night, when the view of
the Vieux Carré and the bend of the Mississippi River are glorious
by moonlight. Only the neighboring Monteleone Hotel has a higher
view inside the Vieux Carré, but the Omni sits more centrally
located within the Quarter.
The hotel also offers an elegant ballroom, complete with Waterford
crystal chandeliers, and meeting spaces, including an
indoor/outdoor setting with French doors overlooking a private
patio garden and fountain.
This spring, the Omni Royal Orleans will introduce a romantic
package that offers a variety of amenities. Visitors can choose
from features such as late checkouts, roses, chocolates and
breakfast in bed.
“We do a romantic package,” Becker said. “When you call for
reservations, you can choose from one of the packages. It’s like an
a la carte thing.”