Tulane's dining team brings a faculty lounge back to the future

The 1834 Lounge served as a vaccine center and student gathering spot during the pandemic but reopened as a faculty dining room this month, serving up an inspired menu.
Table service provides a touch of New Orleans hospitality to lunch guests at the 1834 Lounge. | Photos courtesy of Tulane Dining

Tulane University faculty lost their on-site lounge during the pandemic, as it was first converted to a vaccine center and then a student gathering spot. But once the New Orleans campus was back in full swing, the staff wanted it back.

“The faculty had heartburn that there was no longer a place to have lunch,” said Wesley Turnage, general manager of Tulane Dining.

After three and a half years, Tulane Dining reclaimed the space for the faculty, reopening it as the 1834 Lounge on Aug. 21. Lunch is served every weekday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. with an elevated menu and decor to match.

“We had to bring in new tables and chairs, shelving, a new setup for buffet service and artwork,” said Turnage. “We also plan to add a television and other decorative touches.”

Catering chef Tonia Babineaux worked with chef Jason LeBouef and the Sodexo dining team to create the menu. In addition to a lunch buffet, LTOs are available every day. One features fried shrimp tacos with jicama slaw, while another is a specialty burger layered with Louisiana-sourced ground beef, local cheddar cheese and fried green tomatoes on brioche with a side of kettle chips.


The 1834 Lounge offers a made-from-scratch dessert spread Monday-Friday.

“Right now, there are just a few a la carte items, but we will expand,” said Turnage. “One plan is to offer Louisiana food traditions, like red beans and rice on Mondays and fried seafood on Fridays, all served family-style.” There are always vegetarian and gluten-free options available, too.

The 1834 Lounge has been open for lunch just over a week, but it's already doing 50 covers a day. The goal is to get to 100 daily covers, and lunch costs $20 per person.

In true New Orleans style, the meal is not a hurried affair, said Kevin Belton, a popular chef and TV personality who serves as a culinary ambassador in the space.

“In New Orleans, people sit and ‘visit’ over meals,” he said. “Coming in to eat here is like being welcomed into a kitchen at someone’s home. A lot of the faculty is not from around here, and we want to give them New Orleans hospitality. A good meal is like a warm hug.”

Belton makes it his business to go around and talk to everyone. Last week, a professor brought in a student to have lunch with them, and some faculty stay for a couple of hours, taking time to catch up on their laptops.

Chef Belton

Chef Kevin Belton is the culinary ambassador at the new faculty dining space.

The team already brought in a musician to play the guitar on “Live Music Monday,” and

Turnage has toyed with the idea of doing a happy hour one day a week. The 1834 Lounge is also available for faculty breakfasts and can be rented for private events.

Later in September, Belton and Turnage are planning an “official” opening wine-and-cheese party to introduce the refreshed space to the Tulane community. In the meantime, both the menu and that special New Orleans hospitality continue to evolve and expand.



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