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30 Under 30: Celebratory times call for a (small) splurge

After a nine-month hiatus to complete my MBA studies, my return to the “30 Under 30” column is long overdue. Since I plan to stay in New Orleans after graduating from Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business, and since I still have a year and half left until my 30th birthday, I have plenty of motivation to search for deals for the under-30 crowd.

Of course, like any student, I don’t need extra incentive to seek out thrifty spending secrets and hidden entertainment gems. And since this is, after all, the season of commencements and ceremony, a recent lunch foray took classmates and I in search of some celebratory grand cuisine at not-so-grand prices.

An array of 25-cent martinis make weekday lunch at Commander's a worthwhile splurge.

Our quest led us to Commander’s Palace, located in the Garden District at 1403 Washington Ave. One of the most well-known restaurants in New Orleans, and a landmark since the late 19th century, Commander’s has a reputation for elegance and excellence. In addition to savory Creole-inspired cuisine, the restaurant’s multitude of bright, airy rooms and friendly wait staff make it a great location for a special occasion.

The only potential downside to Commander’s Palace for a young professional is the lofty prices that inevitibly go with a restaurant of its caliber. However, the weekday lunch offerings make it a lot more affordable for those on a budget.

During the week, Commander’s offers a two-course lunch special for $18 and a three-course menu for $30, as well as a la carte options. And my favorite part of the deal: 25-cent martinis that make a perfect compliment to the meal (available in classic gin or vodka and three specialty versions: the Commander’s martini, Cosmopolitan and Ray’s Melon).

Chef Tory McPhail changes the menu almost daily in order to serve the freshest possible ingredients; however, staples include the turtle soup and Creole bread pudding soufflé – both a must for any Commander’s novice. For an idea of what to expect, check out a sample menu here.

Just a short walk from the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, Commander’s Palace is a great option for an elegant daytime outing. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday, and due to the restaurant’s popularity, reservations are recommended. Be sure to don your finest for the occasion and avoid wearing shorts or t-shirts, as business casual attire is preferred.

Bon Appetit! And congratulations …

New Orleans native Megan Peck writes about bar happy hours, restaurant specials, interesting events and any lagniappe happenings that can be enjoyed for $30 or less, and that particularly appeal to the under-30 set. If you have bargain Big Easy pleasures, please send them her way, at peck.meg@gmail.com.

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