“Lunch like a queen, dine like a pauper”: that’s my motto. I relish meeting friends for a meal in the middle of the day to try new dishes and check out new places, because come evening I want to be home with my dogs and dinner is usually either leftovers from lunch or a hastily concocted salad.

Hence, it’s with pleasure that I’ve recently observed that a slew of local restaurants have upped the lunch game allowing for exciting, diverse dining options, often at value-driven prices. 

The menu at Marjie’s Grill, a casual spot that packs serious culinary power, is loaded with plenty of fresh, uncommon flavors and lunch is the perfect time for a visit for a unique take on the meat-and-three. The cost of your lunch is based on the number of sides you select: one for $13, two for $16, three for $19. First, select a protein, such as honey-butter yard bird rubbed with chili and garlic, slow-roasted over hardwood coals and glazed with Louisiana honey; peel-and-eat jumbo Gulf shrimp marinated with garlic and chili, and served with lime and herbs; or buttermilk-fried wild Des Allemandes catfish crusted with heirloom corn flour and served with a zippy buttermilk dipping sauce. Then select one, two or three sides, which include coal-roasted sweet potatoes; cucumber and melon Som Tam salad with chili vinaigrette; grilled Alabama sweet corn slathered with lemongrass sambal butter; Louisiana field greens with olive oil and satsuma; grilled shishito peppers; and grilled okra. 

Compere Lapin offers a $30 two-course prix-fixe lunch on weekdays. Choose from one first course lunch offering and one specialty second course item. First course offerings include beet & carrot salad with pecans; cold smoked tuna tartare with avocado and crispy bananas; whipped ricotta with roasted apples, truffle honey and pine nuts; and marinated shrimp with roasted jalapeno jus. Second course items include agnolotti with curry granola; snapper with roasted squash and Brussels sprouts; and hot fire chicken sandwich with pickles. 

A major bargain, the beautiful Copper Vine also offers lunch on weekdays. The scrumptious lunch menu has a “pick two” option for the unbeatable price of $13. Guests may combine two of the following lunch items: Baby Herbs Salad  with seasonal fruit, candied pecans, house cheese and citrus vinaigrette; Chicken and Boudin Gumbo; Tomato Basil Soup with egg, Serrano ham and micro basil; half of a Smoked Chicken Salad Club Sandwich with Chisesi ham, bacon provolone, butter lettuce and heirloom tomato; half of a Copper Vine Cuban with Chisesi ham, house smoked pork loin, pickled peppers, provolone and yellow mustard; or half a Fried Shrimp Poor Boy with white Gulf shrimp, pepper jelly, tasso ham and pickled okra. 

With offers this exciting, there’s no excuse for enduring a boring mid-day salad or a ho-hum sandwich at your desk. Get out and enjoy the cool weather. It won’t last forever. 

Try This:

Happy Hour is offered every day at Superior Seafood, 4-6:30 p.m., when frozen cocktails – including the addictive frozen French 75 (gin, Champagne and fresh lemon juice) – are two-for-one and cold, salty oysters are $.50 apiece. Sit outside if the weather is fine, but know that the unadulterated views of a beautiful stretch of St. Charles Avenue are visible through the large picture windows while still enjoying the comfort of air conditioning or a heater on the given day. The restaurant’s festive bistro environment is established largely by the spectacular 32-foot zinc bar, which was crafted in Petoux, France, salvaged from Paris and shipped to New Orleans with great fanfare.

Across town and also rocking a vaguely Parisian vibe, The Franklin shines with a daily happy hour 5-7 p.m. every day except Tuesday, when it’s closed. Six dollar cocktails include including house martinis, daiquiris and margaritas, lemon drops and old-fashioneds, as well as snacks like oysters with mignonette, fries with garlic aioli, duck liver mousse with mostarda and house made pickles, cheese plates, redfish rillettes and warm spiced olives. 

Compere Lapin, 535 Tchoupitoulas St., 599-2119, CompereLapin.com

Copper Vine, 1001 Poydras St., 208-9535, CopperVineWine.com

The Franklin, 2600 Dauphine St., 267-0640, TheFranklinNola.com

Marjie’s Grill, 320 S. Broad Ave., 603-2234, MarjiesGrill.com

Superior Seafood, 4338 St. Charles Ave., 293-3474, SuperiorSeafoodNola.com