Good Eating in The New Commons

The astonishing options for healthy dining in The Commons match up to the spectacular architectural ambience of the new place to 
hang out on campus.

As I walked through Tulane’s spectacular, angular and eye-popping new state-of-the-art $55 million dining hall, a couple thoughts crossed my mind.

I wish a couple of my college buddies could have made the tour with me, just to witness their mouths agape and startled reactions to the 70,000-square-foot building, considering what dining was like in the Mesozoic Era when we were at Tulane.

plates of sushi in The Commons

The first thing that caught my eye when I entered this immense house of glass overlooking the fabulous oak trees and quadrangle across from Dixon Hall were the seemingly never-ending food stations: the “Carved” station on this day featured Korean BBQ shredded pork (Calories 150) and Jasmine rice (Calories 120). There was also Asian vegetable stir fry (Calories 90), Hoisin sauce (Calories 5) and Asian slaw (Calories 30).

Being a local student at Tulane, I had a lot of food options. I could mooch a meal from my aunt. I could eat at Bruff Commons or Der Rathskeller. I could eat off campus, maybe at Eddie Price’s, the forerunner of  The Boot. Or the venerable Frostop, still dependable across Claiborne Avenue from the baseball and football stadiums. There was also the Rendon Inn, Camellia Grill, Phillips Pizza and further down the food chain, Royal Castle.

Ultimately, I signed up for my fraternity’s food plan. Rest assured, no calories were listed. Or counted. Or discussed. More on that to come.

The next food station I perused was called “Hearth” and it featured grilled salmon (Calories 200), and Southern-style green beans (90). The “Grilled” station advertised a Cuban sandwich (470), a balsamic Portobello mushroom (50) and (Yikes!) French fries (210). I was relieved to see something not on many healthy diet plans. There was also a “Simmered” station, where there were soup options: chicken corn chowder (110), vegetable split pea soup (70) and three bean chili (150). The food choices vary from day to day and there are gluten-free, allergy-free and vegan options and an incredible salad bar.

Also a wood-fired pizza oven. I’m thinking our house cook once tried her hand at pizza and it must have been cooked in a petrified pizza oven. Not one of my friends recalled a single salad at any time. But we did have red beans and rice and sausage, hamburgers, spaghetti and meatballs and industrial-sized cans of green beans. Our housemother was a devout Catholic so there was always fried shrimp, fish and gumbo on Fridays. Hot dogs and chili. All kinds of po-boys and chips. Fried chicken, corned beef hash and the mysterious “Salisbury steak” were also available. 

A couple of servers at The Commons told me the students were “wild about it.”

It’s a very cool place to people watch, hang out, converse or the always present heads-down smartphone routine.

Outside there was a classic New Orleans thunderstorm going on. Typical of the complimentary comments was this thumbs-up: “It’s significantly better, leaps and bounds above Bruff Commons for both scenery and food,” said finance major Luca Busalacchi, a Hahnville High graduate. He and two friends were still hanging out 30 minutes after they finished lunch, sans umbrellas. “And it’s a great place to watch a rainstorm.”

(above photo by Rachel Hunter)