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Restaurant grande dame Commander's Palace shaves off a few years

Ti Martin and Lally Brennan announce the results of a little geneological research -- on their restaurant.

Ti Martin and Lally Brennan announce the results of a little geneological research -- on their restaurant.

Has Commander’s Palace discovered the fountain of youth?

 That seems to be the case, albeit unintentionally.

According to long-held lore – not to mention menus, plaques and the restaurant’s floor tiles – Commander’s Palace has been in operation since 1880. But as the grande dame of Creole cuisine approached its 135th anniversary this year, proprietors Ti Martin and Lally Brennan decided to do some digging into longstanding rumors that Commander’s, like generations of New Orleans teenagers, might not be quite as old as it claimed.

The restaurateurs retained researcher Tonya Jordan of Living History Nola to examine historical documents that could shed more light on the institution’s origin. What Jordan uncovered was a surprise to them and to the rest of the Commander’s staff: The restaurant’s true date of birth was closer to 1893. According to Jordan’s research, Emile Commander purchased the property at the corner of Washington and Coliseum in 1891 for $2,750, then sold it to the American Brewing Company in 1892 for $2,001. That company paid builders $1,734 to erect a wooden structure on the property, which they sold back to Emile Commander in 1893.

While shaving a few years off one’s age might be common practice among actresses, it was an unexpected development for the restaurant, particularly in light of the planned anniversary celebration.

Brennan and Martin made the news public at a September 17 press conference, during which Brennan quipped: “What gal of a ‘certain age’ wouldn’t be happy to find out she’s 13 years younger?”

There is some upside. Commander’s gets the opportunity to hold a 125th anniversary celebration, a milestone that had previously been upended by Hurricane Katrina. And they have created a special cocktail to mark the amendment to their historical record: the "Oops," a potent blend of Maker’s Mark, Grand Marnier, fresh lime juice, Peychaud’s Bitters and Cherry Heering. The commemorative cup will be available through Friday, September 25.