The restaurant experience I most anticipated in New Orleans was Commander’s Palace ; because of their former Las Vegas location, I had heard about their food and $.25 martini specials for years. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District just so happens to be right across the street from Commander’s Palace. So as I was planning on doing a cemetery tour anyway, I decided to fold in lunch at Commander’s. I went online and booked lunch there for noon on Monday.
Making the reservation online was very easy. My only complaint about it is that there was no option for a reservation for 1, so I had to make it for 2. That’s something they should fix, because it did sort of make me feel like maybe I wouldn’t be welcome there as a solo diner. However, as it turns out, the reservation for 2 was perfect because I met a fellow writer during the cemetery tour and wound up inviting him to join me for lunch. (See? Just because you travel solo doesn’t mean you have to eat all your meals alone.)
My expectations for this restaurant were high, and you know what usually happens when you have high expectations. However, Commander’s Palace did not disappoint. It is a very classy restaurant. I was a little nervous about their dress code (business casual), because I knew I would have my camera with me for the cemetery tour, and the only camera bag I have is my knapsack. Would they deny me entrance, thinking I was some sort of hobo? No such worries. Nobody raised an eyebrow over the knapsack. I was wearing black dress slacks, so I guess that’s all that mattered.
We were led to an upstairs room in this lovely Victorian house, which was decorated for Christmas. It was much larger inside than it seemed outside, with several separate dining rooms; I almost got lost coming back from the ladies room, even though we were just around the corner. Our waiter’s name was Argyle, and he had a waxed mustache with the little curly-cues in the corners. He was perfect for this place. His manner and service were impeccable.
I’m afraid I can’t remember what my dining companion had for his meal, but I ordered the Turtle Soup Au Sherry (something I had never tried before) and the New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp. The turtle soup had a tomato-based broth (with sherry, of course, hence the name) and was a bit spicy. The menu describes the shrimp as “Wild Louisiana white shrimp, whipped brie stone ground grits, charred chilies, spicy pickled garlic, Abita beer and New Orleans barbecue sauce.” It was good, and again, spicy. And yes, I did have two of the $.25 martinis (Ray’s Melon Martini), which were yummy.
But the best part of the meal was dessert. I was going to order the bread pudding with whiskey sauce, but I saw that they had strawberry shortcake on the menu. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know how I feel about strawberry shortcake. I had to have it. It was the best strawberry shortcake EVER. Both Argyle and my dining companion (who is a native of Louisiana), swore this was because it was made with freshly harvested Pontchatoula, Louisiana strawberries, which are reportedly the most flavorful. (They even have a strawberry festival there.) My dining companion had the satsuma (like a mandarin orange) and thought it was quite good as well. My check before tip came to $34. It was worth every penny. As far as I’m concerned, no trip to New Orleans would be complete without a meal at Commander’s Palace.
Commander’s Palace is located at 1403 Washington Avenue, across the street from the entrance to the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Lunch is served from 11:30am-2pm Monday through Friday, and dinner is served daily 6:30-10pm. There is also a jazz brunch here every Saturday and Sunday. See their website for details.