New Orleanians are lucky for many reasons. Especially, when it comes to the culinary artistry that we are surrounded by each day. From family members who cook the best gumbo you’ve ever tasted, to nationally-acclaimed chefs and restauranteurs who continually up the ante over and over again.

One chef, whose rise to fame has no signs of stopping, is now bringing his talent up close and personal with his customers. Chef Isaac Toups currently owns and operates two restaurants in the Big Easy: Toups Meatery and Toups South in the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

Last fall, the “Top Chef” season 13 finalist added to his culinary offerings by creating a curated, personal dining experience. The “Counter Club” series brings 20 diners face to face with the chef as he and his team create 5-course themed dinners.

Though Toups has often said that he hates brunch and dislikes cooking breakfast food as it’s “not his style,” this year, the Counter Club series was expanded to include a new brunch-time offering.

I recently attended the first brunch and can report it does not disappoint. ““I used to work for Emeril and when I got my own place I swore I’d never do brunch,” said Toups to the crowd. “And here we are!”

The atmosphere is lively, the food is amazing and chef and his team make for some impressive entertainment.

As all brunches should start with a drink. My Toups experience started at the bar with a mimosa, though each Counter Club edition is met with a complimentary cocktail created specifically for the 20 diners by Bryson Downham, the restaurant’s beverage director.

Since I’ve already attended a couple of Counter Club events, I was interested to see how they took on breakfast food. I was presented with a waffle-battered corn dog amuse and knew they had it in the bag.

The rest of the prix-fixe off-menu occasion included a wilted green salad, poached shrimp and crab roll, tongue chilaquiles and a buttermilk churro with cinnamon ice cream and chocolate drizzle to really bring the morning home.

Many restaurants around the city have prix-fixe menus, however, what made me enjoy this above the others is the perfectly sized proportions. Though there are five courses, the plates are big enough that I felt it worth paying for, but small enough to where I was only semi-stuffed at the end.

Because of the intimacy of the counter setting, interacting with Chef Isaac and his team give an added value to the event. I asked probably more questions that I should have, complimented on my favorite courses – which had to be the waffle-battered corn dog and the buttermilk churro (bookends, if you will) – and assured chef that I would be back again, which he may or may not be excited about.

In an area of the city that is still trying to find its stride, Toups South gives visitors and locals an excellent start to a beautiful Sunday in the city.
The brunch series started on March 11 and will happen once a month. You can call the restaurant to make a reservation. 304-2147