Commander’s Palace

Commander’s Palace is the crown jewel of New Orleans’ restaurants. Whether you are celebrating a birthday or just want to dress up and be treated like royalty, Commanders is the place to go for haute Creole cuisine in a delightful atmosphere.

1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130

commanders palace restaurant nola places photo

GO FOR: Impeccable staff, Shrimp Henican appetizer, Seating in the Garden Room, Crabcakes (seriously it is all crab) and Bread Pudding Souffle (unless the seasonal Strawberry Shortcake is on the menu).

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Commanders has been a landmark in the New Orleans food scene since 1893.

The iconic “Commanders Blue” building is a site to see even if you are not dining in.  (If you are in the area sightseeing, make sure you stop at Lafayette cemetery just across the street.)  However, if you are dining in, you need to make a reservation.  They still are old school with a dress code and an amazing reservation team on site to personally handle your request.  They have relaxed their dress code a bit in the past few years but dressing up with friends and family adds a special feeling to dining here.

This is an experience, not just a meal, so make sure you allow for enough time here to enjoy a cocktail — even before looking at the menu.  You’ll have one while looking at the menu, too. (Don’t worry, they will bring out garlic bread to nibble on while you peruse the daily specials.) And, leave room at the end for my favorite part of the meal: dessert!  If you are with a group, order a variety (with several spoons) so you can taste them all!

The Brennan family does an amazing job of being “hands on” as evidenced by the number of awards (including seven James Beard awards) and renowned chefs that have passed through the doors. Tory McPhail is the current executive chef and always has creative dishes on the menu, so you never know what to expect.

One of my favorite experiences is walking into the Garden Room for their weekend brunch. There are always balloons for guests who are celebrating and a jazz band to keep spirits high.  (You can always tell who is having a birthday by the toque (aka chef hat) they get to wear!)  December is another great time to go but make sure you make your reservation way in advance because those coveted spots go fast. As soon as you arrive, everyone is given a bell affixed to a Commmander’s blue ribbon necklace. There are carolers singing, and there are beautiful Christmas decorations. (See how many bells you can collect in holiday season from all the Brennan restaurants.)

Commanders prides itself on using only the freshest ingredients and buying local when they can. (If they can’t get fresh soft-shell crabs in the morning, you won’t find them on the menu!) Their wine list is extensive but don’t be overwhelmed if you are not a self-proclaimed sommelier. Their Commanders’ labeled white and red are top notch and very affordable.  (Commanders can be expensive though, so if you are on a budget, Note: they have great two-course lunch specials (M-F) that are in the $20 range. — karen decker mccrossen