By: Joanna Burton

Simply say “New Orleans” and one imagines a city where the party never stops. World-renowned for its distinct music, vibrant nightlife, and unique blend of French, African, and American influenced cuisine. The city is infectious and inspiring. So much so that restaurateur, Steven Sponder, opened The Palace in 1985 with a vision of marrying the city’s magical energy with its exotic Creole flavors and bringing it to Santa Barbara. Now in its 35th year, The Palace Grill still delights the senses of locals and tourists alike, offering a dining experience like no other. “The heart of our operation has been the feeling of that energy, just like New Orleans,” says current owner Michael DeRousse, who joined Steven in as a consultant in 1987, and in 2000 took over the operation full time.


Customers begin to feel the restaurant’s energy from the moment they walk up to The Palace. On weekends live music plays outside much to the delight of waiting diners as trays with bite-sized pieces of their Fried Chicken Salad circulate down the line. “We want our guests to feel special, and share in our celebration, even if they are still waiting to be seated,” says Michael.

From the murals of jazz musicians on the wall to the Mardi-Gras beads that conjure images of walking through the French Quarter, guests can expect a fun night from the minute they are seated.

The Palace offers fine dining, but in a casual atmosphere where guests are encouraged to let the good times roll. More often than not, they entertain their diners with a restaurant-wide sing-a-long where guests raise a glass and toast with fellow patrons and servers alike, or captivate them with a magician doing card tricks.

An eclectic mix of Cajun, Creole city food and a variety of American classics can be found on the Palace’s menu. Robust layers of flavors can be found in everything from the appetizers to desserts, to the drinks – the Cajun Martini is a customer favorite! A popular dish stuffed with crawfish tails is the Blackened Filet Mignon. Their Jambalaya is loaded with shrimp, chicken, Papa Cantella’s Cajun Andouille sausage (JFS #35807), and served on a bed of dirty rice. It’s a blend of flavors that would have any diner exclaiming “Bon bagay!”


The Palace’s long-standing success comes from thinking outside the box of standard restaurant practices. The Palace uses a
“team service” model when it comes to their wait-staff, wherein any server working in the front of the house is able to assist guests, not just the server assigned to their table. “Not being able to locate your server can be a point of frustration for diners, and we did not want to be like that.” Hiring employees that reflect their goal to provide the best experience for their guests, bringing on staff who have a genuine desire to please and maintain the best service possible. Even Michael’s grandson, who buses tables on Saturdays, asked to work at The Palace because of the passion the servers exude.


Jordano’s Foodservice is The Palace’s primary supplier, keeping them well stocked with ingredients like Baron Spices® to flavor their recipes to the Callebaut® Dark Chocolate Callets (JFS #11672) used in their famous chocolate soufflé. Michael credits the long-standing partnership (over 40 years) with Jordano’s, and relationship with Account Executive, Lee Harris, as a factor in the restaurants continued success. “The Jordano’s approach has always been ‘all we want is the opportunity to earn your business.’ I like that. We feel the same way about our guests in the restaurant.” Michael said.

Jordano’s knows that trust and transparency are essential in any valued partner relationship. When costs start to rise, Michael will reach out to Lee and ask for his insight. “It’s always a pleasure to work with Michael and his team,” says Harris, “They are all professional and attentive when I present new ideas for their menus or introduce new items that can help cut costs.”

The Palace Grill has maintained popularity for three decades in a business where most operations don’t stay open past five years. It’s the energy, the service, and the overall feeling when you walk through the door that keeps you coming back. Michael and his team strive to give customers the true New Orleans experience seven nights a week and invite them to share in the celebration for another 35 years, serving joie de vivre with every dish.