Feasting in New Orleans: Commander’s Palace, Johnny’s Po-Boys and Arnaud’s Restaurant
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Over Labor Day weekend, I stopped in New Orleans for a quick trip to see friends. Although it was a short trip, I managed to eat as much as possible while there (the #1 recommendation of what to do!), as I wanted to sample as much southern New Orleans cuisine as possible. The trip was more than food, but for this post, lets focus on the grub.
The first night, we had dinner at the famous Commander’s Palace, which dates back to 1880 and has feasted luminaries like Mark Twain and historic figures like Confederate president Jefferson Davis. The restaurant is located outside of the French Quarter, in the more genteel Garden District of New Orleans and serves “Haute Creole” cuisine.
The menu features a lot of seafood and many typical Creole dishes. Their famous turtle soup ($8.50) did not disappoint – it’s is a Commander’s classic that takes three days to make, and is finished tableside with aged Spanish Sherry. It was definitely a unique and delicious dish.
My main dish, the tenderloin of veal & Louisiana crawfish over a confit of shallots, summer corn, roasted fingerling potatoes, & baby spinach with smoked yellow tomato butter ($36). It sounded mouthwatering, but I thought it was just decent.
My friend ordered the grilled Texas quail, which is stuffed with goat cheese and comes with a boiled-crab pineapple salad over a cornbread financière and peach-habañero hot sauce ($37). It was outstanding and I wish I’d ordered it myself!
For dessert, I went with the peaches and cream shortcake ($8.50), which was amazing. It came with sliced peaches, brown sugar and Makers Mark bourbon over peach and roasted pecan coffee cake, cinnamon-whipped chantilly, and crystal sugar. The perfect end to the meal.
This restaurant is a staple in New Orleans – it’s famous and traditional, and if you want a fancy, typical Creole dinner I would recommend it. Just order the quail and not the veal!
Worth it? Yes.
The next day we went to lunch at Johnny’s Po-Boys, which is in the French Quarter. The restaurant has been open since 1950 and was one of the first to re-open after Hurricane Katrina. The menu is simple and offers – you guessed it – so many different types of Po-Boys your head will spin. Pretty much anything you could ever want on a piece of French bread, Johnny’s Po-Boys has got it.
Lunch at Johnny’s Po-Boys was a decisive moment for me…it was here that I fell in love with Louisiana Hot Sauce. The sauce is perfect – not too spicy, but tangy and delicious. I had the oyster Po-Boy, which was great, and costs the daily market price (it was $12 the day I was there). You can add your choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo and can have it made on a Leidenheimer bun or a triple-deck Texas toast, which I got, and which was great. However, the standout dish was the shrimp Po-Boy, so I’d order that next time.
This is the perfect place to stop into for a low-key lunch in New Orleans.
Worth it? Yes.
Arnaud’s is just the place to go if you want a nice dining experience in the French Quarter with traditional New Orleans cuisine. They offer typical Creole food and also have live jazz, which is a bonus.
Arnaud’s dates back to 1918, and actually has a Mardi Gras Museum in the restaurant, which is free and open to the public during restaurant hours. The museum has over two dozen Mardi Gras costumes, over 70 vintage photos, masks, jewelry and more.
Back to the food…there were four of us at dinner and we shared a lot of appetizers, which I think was my favorite part of the dinner because they were all fantastic. We ordered the crab claws Provencale which were simmered in butter, fresh garlic and parsley with a dash of Pernod ($13.95).
The Shrimp Arnaud, their specialty shrimp appetizer has Gulf shrimp marinated in tangy remoulade sauce and was the most popular starter ($9.95).
The alligator sausages were another big hit and were served with smoked apple and onion relish along with housemade Creole mustard ($8.95). I thought they tasted a bit like hot dog, but they were good.
Next came the famous Oysters Kathryn with artichoke hearts, garlic, fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano and extra-virgin olive oil – they disappeared fast ($8.95).
Of course, I couldn’t come to New Orleans without trying gumbo, so we got a bowl of seafood gumbo, which was stuffed with seafood and really hearty and flavorful ($7.95).
The other main dish we got were the crab cakes made with lump jumbo Louisiana crab meat and white remoulade sauce, which were actually pretty disappointing – they had a lot of filler and weren’t that flavorful ($31.95).
If you visit Arnauds I highly recommend getting a lot of appetizers and sharing, this way you can sample a lot of the typical Creole dishes and see what you like – I’ll personally be coming back for the oysters and the Gulf shrimp.
Worth it? Yes.
All in all I thought all three of these restaurants are worth a visit, especially if you want to try some traditional New Orleans restaurants but want to visit restaurants up and down the price spectrum. Feel free to share your own New Orleans restaurant recommendations below.