Commander’s Palace Opens Drinks-Focused SoBou

The new restaurant from Commander’s Palace is called SoBou, which stands for “South of Bourbon Street.” That’s a curious name in a city that doesn’t use cardinal directions. But New Orleanians will appreciate the idea behind SoBou, where booze matters as much as food.

SoBou, the new restaurant from Commander’s Palace, emphasizes drinking as much as dining.
Located inside the W New Orleans–French Quarter in the space that previously housed Bacco, every inch of SoBou celebrates the cocktail. The black and gold interior is lined with rainbow-hued bottles. Cases hold artifacts on loan from the Museum of the American Cocktail. And etched onto a glass wall is an egg cup, or “coquetier” in French, which some claim gave the cocktail its name.

The cocktail menu was created by Lu Brow of the Swizzle Stick Bar and Abigail Gullo, who was recruited from New York for the project. In addition to classics such as bucks, fizzes and flips, SoBou also mixes originals like the Jean Lafitte (three rums with citrus, ginger, honey and bitters) and the Faubourg Tall Boy (Earl Grey-infused gin, creme de cassis, lemon and sparkling wine). SoBou also has a small “bar chef’s table” where the bartender on duty can put together a meal of small bites paired with drinks.

SoBou didn’t overlook the beer and wine fans. The restaurant features a selection of local and craft beers, along with three tables with built-in taps. Customers can open a tab and pour their own beer, which is metered by an electronic system. In addition to a large wine list created by Dan Davis of Commander’s Palace, SoBou also offers 16 bottles on a self-service Napa Technology system. The machines dispense wine by the glass, half glass or one-ounce taste.

Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez, a Puerto Rican native, created the menu of Cajun and Creole inspired small plates and casual fare. Options range from snacks, like cracklins, oyster tacos and Crystal Hot Sauce cotton candy, to a foie gras “burger” with a duck egg , duck bacon and foie gras mayonnaise.

Gonzalez began his culinary career at age 19 when he was hired by Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin. A few years later, with a letter a recommendation from one of America’s most revered chefs, he was admitted to the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. After his first year, he came to New Orleans for an “externship” under Jamie Shannon at Commander’s Palace. Gonzalez decided that he could learn more at Commander’s than at culinary school. He never went back to the CIA. After Shannon’s death in 2001, Gonzalez continued under Tory McPhail at Commander’s Palace and then went on to Cafe Adelaide. Most recently Gonzalez was the opening executive chef at Houston’s Bistro Alex, another project of the Commander’s Palace team.

310 Chartres St. inside the W French Quarter

Article by TODD A. PRICE