Home Food & Beverage Our Amazing Meal At This New Orleans Landmark

Our Amazing Meal At This New Orleans Landmark

by joeheg

During our week-long visit to New Orleans, the only advanced plans we made were for meals. We had several places we wanted to visit and even with making reservations a few weeks in advance, it was a challenge to book them all.

While parts of every meal we ate were fantastic, one meal stuck out as being better than the rest. From the service to the food, everything about it was perfect. This was surprising as it was the one place on the list I was the least excited about visiting.

Commander’s Palace is a New Orleans landmark. Since opening in 1893, the Garden District restaurant has been serving food to locals and tourists alike. If receiving endless accolades from Wine Spectator and winning seven James Beard awards wasn’t enough, the list of previous executive chefs includes cooking icons Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Jamie Shannon, and Tory McPhail.

Since 2020, the kitchen has been under the control of Meg Bickford, who continues the tradition of serving Creole and Cajun specialties, some of them still prepared from decades-old recipes.

That was why I wasn’t as excited about visiting Commander’s Palace. When a restaurant is famous for such a long time, it’s easy to rest on its reputation. Serving exactly what people expect becomes enough and sometimes the experience becomes watered down.

When combined with the bow-tie-wearing servers, the dining room has a formal feel, making this a place where you’d go for a special occasion. This was apparently the case with balloons on many tables, celebrating some event.  While the restaurant is elegant, which includes a reasonable dress code for guests, it doesn’t feel stuffy.

The menu is large enough to give you a choice in each category but not too overwhelming.

We couldn’t help but take advantage of the 25 cent martini specials the Commander’s Palace has during lunch.

I ordered Chef Meg’s Classic Creole Luncheon. Not knowing how the restaurant deals with substitutions, I asked our server if I could switch out the turtle soup for the creole gumbo. He looked at me and delivered a deadpan, “No.”

As he walked away, I wondered if he was serious or not, and I wasn’t sure which soup I’d get with my meal.

Sharon started with the romaine salad.

Hearts of romaine, grated Parmesan, pressed egg, crumbled bacon. French bread croutons, shaved Gruyère and creamy black pepper dressing

I got the gumbo, and our server joked that he needed to pull some strings in the kitchen to make it happen.

Rich stock slow cooked in a dark cast iron roux with regional ingredients spiked with toasted garlic, creole seasonings and local hot sauce

As the plates were being cleared, Sharon asked our server if they had any booster chairs or cushions as the seats were relatively low. He apologized that they didn’t have any and since no one has phone books anymore, he’d see what he could do. We liked our server more and more as the meal progressed.  He solved our problem with a stack of napkins.

For the main course, Sharon ordered the cast iron seared fish.

Sweet summer corn, roasted Louisiana sweet potatoes and Camellia beans with blistered sweet peppers, garlic wilted greens and she crab aïoli

I had the quail, which was absolutely amazing. It was one of the top three things I ate all week.

Charred chili smoked boudin stuffed quail over tangy bacon and apple cider braised cabbage with rustic roots, Crystal hot sauce pulp and sticky Grand Marnier & Cognac jus

I was already getting full but I still had bread pudding coming for dessert, which was served with a healthy pour of whiskey cream sauce.

Sharon’s not a big fan of souffle-style desserts, so she ordered the apple cobbler.

At the end of the meal, we waddled out of Commander’s Palace in awe. It’s easy to understand how they’ve stayed relevant in a city full of excellent restaurants. It’s fancy but doesn’t take itself too seriously. While other places can come off as pretentious, Commander’s Palace is comfortable. Located in a neighborhood and not the touristy area, it gives off a different vibe. It’s a special place where you get dressed up a little and have a wonderful meal, which is something that’s getting harder and harder to find.

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Jonathan December 8, 2021 - 12:44 pm

Great report. So happy to hear that things are still strong under the “new” chef. The bread pudding soufflé is one of my favorite desserts anywhere.
As for their consistent service and quality over the years, the indicator of that is that locals still go in droves. That’s not easy to maintain and something not all of the old line New Orleans restaurants have done.

Lew December 8, 2021 - 1:09 pm

Thanks. Will put this restaurant on our list.

John Brissette December 8, 2021 - 2:21 pm

That server’s response is classic New Orleans humor. We tend to be blunt. As they are in other Caribbean cultures. We also tend to deliver humor in a deadpan fashion often filled with contradiction. That is so typical of our city. Other examples: recently we had a meal out with a friend. As the empty plates were being cleared we chose to tell the server “how awful” everything was. Reverse insults as complements is a long standing tradition of our vernacular. At the same meal, the server admitted to making a mistake and missing one diner’s order (it was a duplicate of another diner’s and the kitchen assumed she just hit the button twice). As she was humbly apologizing my wife looked her dead in the eye and said “thats ok, we’ll just blame you”. One of the wonderful things about life here is our ability to not take ourselves so seriously. Many of our “old line” restaurants despite their restrictive dress codes and adherence to some formal traditions, are never “stuffy”. Stuffy is something we just really can’t do.


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