Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your weekly tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by top chefs. This week, we visit the Big Easy. Don’t let finding great food get you worked up. We’ve got a great guide that will make it easy. Enjoy hot jazz, cold drinks, and the spirit of the city as we explore all that New Orleans culinary scene has to offer.
Meet Chef Tory McPhail, the Executive Chef of Commander’s Palace — a crown jewel in the New Orleans restaurant scene. Beloved by locals and tourists alike, it’s hard to find an accolade that Commander’s Palace hasn’t garnered. Wine Spectator awarded it their Grand Award in 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. The James Beard Foundation designated it an Outstanding Restaurant , and also recognized it for Outstanding Service. For 18 total years, the Zagat Survey of New Orleans has found Commander’s Palace to be the city’s Most Popular Restaurant. So…..no big deal.
With a history this storied, it only makes sense that the executive chef would have as impressive a pedigree, and Chef McPhail doesn’t disappoint. Saveur named him on their list of Tastemaker Chefs in 2012. A James Beard “Rising Star Chef,” in 2013 he won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: South. The same year The Daily Meal called him one of the best chefs in the country. If he looks familiar, he should; he’s appeared on Top Chef and multiple Food Network programs.
McPhail’s road was paved with hard work. He grew to appreciate local ingredients and quality food at an early age and got started at Commander’s Palace when he was 19. He learned his craft and the culture of the restaurant — working through all 12 stations — before moving on and continuing to develop his skills abroad. In 2002 the chef returned to Commander’s Palace, this time in the role of Executive Chef.
Let’s take a look at a few of McPhail’s courses:
Now, with that visual tour as an opening course, let’s join Chef McPhail as he guides us on a culinary tour through New Orleans.
I really like several pizza joints around town. Reginellis is the best local pizza chain for consistent everyday pie. I do like to cool vibe of Midway Pizza Uptown on Freret St for a cool vibe and you can walk across the street for killer local live music.
Although we’re close to Mexico in proximity, New Orleans isn’t known for Mexican food. My go- to however is the Taqueria Corona on Magazine street for their crispy fish tacos and grilled green onions for the app.
Tan Dinh Vietnamese food on Lafayette Street on the West Bank is fantastic and a winner each time. Check when they’re open before you drive because they’re closed on odd days like Tuesdays.
I think SoBou down in the Quarter on Charters street has the best Louisiana inspired street food in the city. Big, bold and bright flavors really shine in the stunning little spot tucked into the W hotel.
My friends at Sucre, Joel and Tariq, do fantastic work and have 2 spots to choose from. It’s elegant, classy and they have amazing design as well as excellent quality product.
I’m partial to a little neighborhood Victorian mansion in the Garden District called Commanders Palace. I think we provide the best all around fine dining in the city and we’re still focused on quality and value for the price. However, Emerils, Bayona, Restaurant August, Brightson’s and Lillet still top my list.
I love Dante’s Kitchen along with Noodle & Pie run by Chef Eman Loubier, a long time friend and mentor and Commanders Palace alum.
Crescent City Farmers Markets always have great selections of fresh vegetables, milk and cheese directly from the fields. Go check it out on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Atchafalaya in Uptown on Louisiana is the stop to be if you’re ready to dine in a fun and casual setting with down to earth friends and plenty of champagne.
ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY
You gotta head down to get you some Chicory Coffee and Beignets from Café Du Monde in the Quarter and sit back to watch the mighty Mississippi River slowly pass on by.
ODD CULINARY EXPERIENCE
I don’t know if it’s really odd anymore, but I was so excited to go to my first drive-through Daiquiri Shop here in New Orleans where it’s perfectly legal to get a few cocktails and a 6 pack and drive away as long as it doesn’t have a straw in it. I first moved to New Orleans when I was 19, and the drinking age just happened to be 19…As a farm kid from Ferndale, Washington…I’d died and gone to heaven.
Well, I have several. Food wise, I eat as much festival food as possible so I get my fix for a year and never have to live with regret. I also love Sushi, French onion soup, French Dip sandwiches and dill pickles — so they’re on my diet as often as possible.
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🍔 You wouldn't think that I be recommending a burger in the French Quarter with all of the awesome seafood, Cajun and Creole entrées available… but this is no ordinary burger! THIS is a Port of Call burger! Port of Call cooks an 8 oz. hand-made patty on the grill and there's no fries… it's only served with a baked potato. And their Neptune's Monsoon is like a very strong Hurricane that is not near as sweet… perfect! Highly recommend!!! @Regrann from @nolafoodgals – It's calling my name 🙌🏼. ? #portofcall #portofcallnola #neptunesmonsoon #stacked #cheeseburger #giantburger #eatingnola #nolafoodgals #nolaeats #nolalife #foodporn #foodie #grilledburger #nolacooking #foodie #instafoodie #neworleans #nola #neworleanscooking #504 #followyournola #showmeyournola #igersneworleans #neworleanslife #neworleansculture #nolaliving #louisianalife #louisiana #crescentcity #frenchquarter #Regrann
When possible, I’d say start off your hangover meal by drinking another cocktail, then ordering a burger at Port of Call on Esplanade Ave. The 32oz Neptune Monsoon will get your motor running too..and grab a second one to go when you walk out.
Date night food is typically always different. There are so many restaurants in New Orleans now that its always a new adventure and getting there and exploring the neighborhood is always part of the fun. Get out there and check out something new.
RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND
I’ve lived all over country and I’ve never known a better, more friendly and genuine group of chefs and restaurateurs anywhere. Most of my friends are chefs, wine reps or work in the hospitality business in one form or another. Most of the establishments have past Commanders alum working them so I feel like after 23 years in this town, most of the best restaurants are run by my friends. Come on down to see us and walk through the kitchen and say hello. Cheers.
Thank you Chef McPhail, for taking us on a culinary tour of New Orleans!
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston, and Detroit.
See you next week!