Commander's Palace, renovated and reopened
|Street address||1403 Washington Ave|
The award-winning Haute Creole restaurant Commander's Palace was established in 1893, and is located in the Garden District of Uptown New Orleans (1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, 70130). Owned by the Commander's Family of Restaurants, whose matriarch Ella Brennan, resided next door, it has long been one of the best-regarded upscale restaurants in the country. Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse are two of its alumni. Commander's Palace is the winner of six James Beard Foundation awards, including Best Chef and Outstanding Service Award.
Emile Commander established a small saloon at the corner of Washington Avenue and Coliseum Street in 1893. Within a few years he turned it into a restaurant patronized by the distinguished neighborhood families of the Garden District. By 1900 Commander's Palace was attracting gourmets from all over the world. Legend has it that stored alcohol was ferried across from the adjacent cemetery during prohibition for patron beverages.
In the 1920s, Frank G. Giarratano was the owner of the restaurant. He lived above the restaurant with his wife, Rose, and their two sons. There were rumors that there were private dining rooms upstairs rented to riverboat captains, visitors, etc. The upstairs rooms were the private residence of Mr. Giarratano and his family, while the downstairs, with a separate entrance, remained a family establishment. Fearing that the restaurant business would decline from what it had been during World War II, and Giarratano's declining health,in 1944 he sold Commander's Palace to Frank and Elinor Moran,who refurbished it and carried on its tradition of excellence with an expanded menu including many recipes still used. The Morans lived in the adjacent home facing Coliseum. Weather permitting, dining on the restaurant courtyard was encouraged - around a large Goldfish/Koi pond, with a large bank of electric heaters available to ward off chill during mild New Orleans winters. It was during this post WWII period that many of New Orleans restaurants, including Commander's Palace, received wider national/international recognition and broader acclaim.
Some thirty plus years later, when the famous Brennan restaurant family of New Orleans purchased the restaurant in late 1969, they began redesign of the interior to complement the outdoor setting. Large windows replaced walls, and custom trellises and paintings were commissioned. Through the years, redesign of the courtyard area, and facility expansion into the back/side property, as well as the removal of much of the fence which had long separated the restaurant from the neighboring owner residence, has taken place.
The restaurant suffered extensive damage due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After a full renovation, it re-opened on October 1, 2006.
In 2015, the Brennan family uncovered that the restaurant did not open in 1880, as is inscribed on the plaque on the front of the restaurant, but actually opened in 1893. To the owners' amusement, many articles still refer to the opening year as 1880. The restaurant even held an "Oops" promotion during the fall of 2015 with special cocktails and go-cups to commemorate the discovery.
Awards and honors
In 2013, Executive Chef Tory McPhail won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South. In 1996, the Foundation awarded the Most Outstanding Restaurant honor to the restaurant. Other James Beard Awards include Lifetime Achievement Award (Ella Brennan) 2009, Outstanding Service Award 1993, and Best Chef, Southeast Region (Jamie Shannon) 1999.
Since 2012, Commander's Palace has been a recipient of the Wine Spectator Grand Award. Zagat has listed Commander’s Palace as the “Most Popular Restaurant in New Orleans” for 18 years. In 2008, the restaurant was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America Hall of Fame.
A building bearing the likeness of Commander's Palace can be found in the 2018 video game "Red Dead Redemption 2". It is located in the fictional town of Saint Denis which is based on the City of New Orleans, LA.
- Beaman, Greg. "Emile Commander: Before the Palace". Our House Stories. Our House Stories. Archived from the original on 2015-02-09. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
- Times-Picayune. 1880: "Humble beginnings for Commander's Palace, a landmark New Orleans restaurant." September 16, 2011. 
- "Chef Tory McPhail - Commander's Palace". New Orleans Online. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
- Anderson, Brett (May 5, 2015). "James Beard Award winning restaurants in New Orleans". The Times-Picayune. Archived from the original on 2015-07-15.
- "Commander's Palace". Wine Spectator. 2015-01-01. Retrieved 2015-08-19.
- COMMANDER’S PALACE: CIA OF THE SOUTH
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