Commander's Palace Is The Must-Visit Historic Restaurant In NOLA

In a city like New Orleans, renowned for food and hospitality, the 130-year-long legacy of Commander's Palace stands apart from the rest. The restaurant's aqua-blue striped awning and turrets might be enough to draw your attention to the historic landmark, but the roll call of influential chefs like Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, and now Meg Bickford has brought national attention to this must-visit NOLA location and its innovative take on Creole-Cajun cuisine. It's fair to say the Commander's Palace shaped the direction of New Haute Creole food while maintaining the gracious service and traditional recipes customers expect at this family-run institution.

A visit to Commander's Palace begins with their modern online reservation system, though diners are encouraged to call in for special requests, where, according to co-owner Ti Martin, daughter of legendary proprietor Ella Brennan, you will speak to "an actual human on the phone — like Jimmy Boudreaux who truly cares about your special requests." She told Tasting Table, "We believe in the entirety of the guest's experience," which starts from the moment you reserve your table. Martin ensures the staff has "a fanatical commitment to the consistent execution of the fundamentals," things like an elegant place setting on the table when you are seated, attentive service, and a world-class menu that has put Commander's Palace at the top of the awards lists year after year.

From past to present

Emile Commander opened his namesake saloon in 1893, and over the years, the site belonged to several families who grew the restaurant business while also living there. The current incarnation of Commander's Palace began when the Brennan family purchased the restaurant in 1969. Large windows on the street were added, along with the famous Commander Blue exterior, and the interior was transformed into the elegant, starched white tablecloth experience that you'll find today.

Family matriarch Ella Brennan is recognized as the creative force that drove the restaurant to prominence. She was awarded the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award for her success at the restaurant and influence on the New Orleans dining scene. Miss Ella, as she was known, shaped the restaurant as well as the careers of a succession of chefs, beginning with the legendary Paul Prudhomme. The family legacy continues with Brennan's daughter Ti Adelaide Martin and niece Lally Brennan at the helm. Martin says, "Commander's retains its long-established focus on developing talent, striving for excellence, and never standing still." That's evident when you step into the restaurant today.

Don't miss dining at Commander's

Don't let the elegant formality fool you, there's plenty of fun and celebration happening in the Commander's dining rooms. From weekend jazz brunches and wine-tasting events to private celebrations, the restaurant is buzzing with the unique energy of New Orleans. After all, Miss Ella's memoir is subtitled "I don't want a restaurant where a jazz band can't come marching through!" You'll find the spirit of Mardi Gras mingled with traditional hospitality and fine dining when you visit.

The menu is sprinkled with old favorites that have been served since the restaurant's opening, like turtle soup with sherry, Creole gumbo, and the palace's renowned bread pudding soufflé, along with chef Meg Bickford's innovative "Playground" menu featuring local Louisiana products like wild white shrimp and quail. Bickford says "I want us to honor our roots, but that doesn't mean we need to be constrained by them." She reminds us that New Orleans is not one style of cooking — it's Creole, Cajun, and today it's also "home to a vibrant community of Honduran-Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, and more. We aim to celebrate the New Orleans of today just as much as our roots." Whether you stop in for jazz brunch, a celebration dinner, or just a drink, you'll find the spirit of Miss Ella and her family welcoming you to the table, and that's not an experience you'd want to miss!