In 2013 the famous Brennan’s in New Orleans, open since 1946 (since 1956 at its present location), closed abruptly in a foreclosure. But by the end of 2013 it reopened after a change of ownership (from one branch of the Brennan family to another branch) and a major remodel. Last November I returned to New Orleans and had breakfast at Brennan’s again (having dined there last in 2010). I am happy to report that Brennan’s is better than ever, with a well done remodel, great service, and improved food. Here is an update of my original post on Brennan’s from 2013.
Garden Patio Room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
The new owners spent an estimated $20 million on the remodel. I love the pink and green color scheme (the building is still signature pink) in the main dining room, the Garden Patio Room, which overlooks the patio through large windows. It looks to me like a 1940s or 1950s room, with its green tufted semi-circular booths and trellised walls, Mardi Gras themed paintings, and wonderful lighting, but it’s actually all new.
chandelier by local artist Julie Neill – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
In the front of the restaurant there is a new dining room with peach walls, framed paintings, a Mexican tiled floor, and windows overlooking Royal Street (the restaurant didn’t have front windows before). After passing that dining room you pass the host stand and then into the expanded bar & cocktail lounge, featuring a large mirror with hand painted tropical birds that reflects the view through windows of the patio, a copper-topped bar with bar stools in mauve, and lamps over the bar that resemble bird cages.
cocktail lounge & bar – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
There are also four private dining rooms upstairs and the wine cellar dining room downstairs for private functions. And lastly, there is the courtyard for alfresco dining.
courtyard – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
This time for breakfast I had the classic Creole dish Grillades and Grits, veal medallions pounded flat and grilled (traditionally they are pan-fried so this was a lighter variation), served with what I would call grit sticks (Brennan’s calls them grit fries), brown veal jus, an egg, and topped with greens. To drink I had their Caribbean Milk Punch (Mt. Gay Black Barrel rum, Buffalo Trace bourbon, cream, nutmeg, and vanilla) and a pot of their delicious, dark, and rich coffee with chicory.
Grillades & Grits – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
Don’t forget to save room for Bananas Foster, which was invented at Brennan’s!
The Jab and friends at Brennan’s – photo by waiter, 2016
Brennan’s 417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Open Mon-Fri 9:00am – 10:00pm, Sat-Sun 8:00am – 10:00pm
Caesar Cardini, 1935 – image by San Diego History Center
Born in Italy in 1896 as Cesare Cardini, he immigrated to the US with his brothers Alex (Alessandro), Nereo, and Caudencio. He opened a restaurant in Sacramento before moving to San Diego and opening his first Tijuana restaurant with Alex and Guadencio’s involvement.
Original Caesar’s Place restaurant in the Hotel Comercial, 2nd & Revolución, Tijuana, c. 1930 – image by The Kitchen Project
Original Caesar’s Place was opened by Cesar Cardini in Tijuana about 1924 in the Hotel Comercial at 2nd and Revolución, next door to the Mexicali Bar, the “World’s Longest Bar” (demolished for a Woolworth’s, but the Hotel Comercial building still stands – enter “Av Revolución 804” in Google Street View to see it).
Hotel Caesar’s Place, 5th & Revolución, Tijuana, 1920s – image by The Kitchen Project
He also opened a restaurant at the Hotel Caesar’s Place in 1927 at Revolución and 5th Street. There is a plaque on the sidewalk in front of the entrance to Caesar’s today, which is still in the Hotel Caesar. I assume Caesar Cardini owned the hotel that bore his name but I haven’t been able to confirm this.
photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
Caesar’s restaurants became very popular in Tijuana in the 1920s and 1930s with Americans and Hollywood celebrities who were flocking in droves to Tijuana to drink (America was still in Prohibition), dine, and gamble.
Original Caesar’s Place at Hotel Comercial, 2nd & Revolución, c. 1935 – image by Peter Morruzi
But after Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, Prohibition ended in 1933, and Mexico made gambling illegal in 1935 business dropped off.
Hotel Comercial, Avenida Revolución & 2nd, Tijuana, 1940s
According to the Reno Evening Gazette in July, 1936, Caesar Cardini closed his café, which was probably the Original Caesar’s location in the Hotel Comercial because by the 1940s the space had a club called Tropics (the pink front with the neon “Tropics” sign that can be seen in the postcard above; and next door to the hotel can be seen the long Mexicali beer hall).
Caesar Cardini Cafe, San Diego, opening night, 1936 – image by San Diego History Center
He left the restaurant business in Tijuana and opened the Caesar Cardini Cafe in downtown San Diego at Front and B Streets, but due to pressure by rival nightclubs partly owned by mobsters who made threats to Cardini’s musicians, among other strong-arm tactics, it closed in six months. Afterwards he became a partner in two local restaurants, the Tavern Hacienda at 47th St. and University Ave. and the Beacon Inn in Cardiff. He even opened his Chula Vista home to diners as the Caesar Cardini Villa, serving 50 cent meals. In 1938 he moved with his family to Los Angeles and opened a liquor store in Montclair. In 1950 he started bottling his salad dressing and eventually he opened Caesar Cardini Foods store on La Cienega, which was very popular as by then the Caesar salad had become the new fad (more on that later). Caesar Cardini passed away in 1954. His daughter Rose trademarked his salad dressing’s name in 1983 and developed a large salad dressing business (the dressing is bow made by T. Marzetti company).
San Diego note: Caesar Cardini never owned Caesar’s at 535 University Ave. in Hillcrest. It was owned by Caesar Pastore and his family from 1928 until 1972, then it became Cavalieri’s (1972-1978), The Summer Place (1978-84), the beloved (and frequented by yours truly) City Deli (1984-2013), and Harvey Milk’s American Diner (2013-2014). Nor did Cardini own Caesar’s in Mission Valley and Grossmont Center, or Little Caesar’s in Point Loma (all owned by the Pastore family and all closed).
Hotel Caesar’s and Caesar’s Cafe, 1940s – postcard image by Peter Moruzzi
Meanwhile, Hotel Caesar’s in Tijuana was enlarged during the 1940s and 1950s. Original Caesar’s Place at the hotel stayed open but was renamed Caesar’s Cafe, then just Caesar’s. Note in the above postcard view the new tower, while the building to the right of the tower is clearly the original hotel, as seen in the 1920s photo earlier in this post.
Hotel Caesar, 1950s postcard
By the 1950s the hotel had grown to three stories and its exterior looked much as it does today, except for the signage.
There also was a Caesar’s Palace at one time at 4th and Revolución, on the second floor above a drug store (it had an outdoor patio for alfresco dining as well).
The Caesar Salad
The exact origins of the Caesar salad are unknown, but there are at least four origin stories:
The oldest story (reported the Zanesville Times Recorder in 1947) is that Caesar Cardini invented the Caesar salad at his eponymous Tijuana restaurant in the 1920s. His daughter Rosa was more exact. In Better Homes and Gardens in 1960 she claimed he invented it on the 4th of July, 1924, when they were running low on food, out of Romaine lettuce, a one-minute coddled egg, garlic croutons, Parmesan or Romano cheese, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, whole pepper, pear vinegar and olive oil (no anchovies), and served as a main course of dressed whole Romaine leaves that were eaten with the fingers.
The book “Dining Out in Hollywood and Los Angeles” by Craig Davidson, published in 1949, stated that a former partner with Caesar and Alex, Paul Maggiora, invented the salad in 1927 in San Diego for some pilots and called it the Aviator’s Salad, but Alex Cardini renamed it the Caesar salad after his brother. Paul later opened the famous restaurant Paul’s Duck Press in downtown Los Angeles, where he served the Caesar salad he claimed to have invented (as whole Romaine leaves).
In 1968 Caesar’s brother Alex Cardini claimed he invented the salad in 1926 in his Mexico City restaurant and named it after his brother. Alex’s granddaughter Carla Cardini has said that Alex actually invented the salad at Caesar’s in Tijuana when he was a partner in his brother’s restaurant, naming it the Aviator’s Salad because he made it for a group of airmen from San Diego. Later he served the salad in his Mexico City restaurant as “the original Alex Cardini Caesar salad”.
In 1988 it was reported by Barbara Hansen in the Los Angeles Times that in 1918 in Austria an Italian named Beatriz Santini created a salad of Romaine lettuce, oil & vinegar, parmesan cheese, and soft-boiled eggs. Her son Livio Santini emigrated to Tijuana, worked for Caesar Cardini, and made Caesar his mother’s salad around 1925, which was a hit with Caesar’s customers.
Ensaladero Guillermo Carreño Olsen, who would later open his own restaurant in Tijuana called El Bodegon de Guillermo (destroyed by fire in 1978) – image by Carrolyn Carreño
Whichever story you believe, here are some interesting tidbits about the Caesar salad:
Julia Child (the famous chef) ate with her parents at Caesar’s in Tijuana in the 1920s and was served a Caesar salad, prepared tableside by Caesar Cardini himself, that was served as whole leaves of Romaine. Whether he invented it or what it was named at the time she couldn’t recall.
Sometime in the 1930s the salad was introduced in Los Angeles, but it didn’t become popular in Southern California until after WWII. In 1945 Sunset magazine published a recipe for a “Romaine salad” which was being served at La Avenida restaurant in Coronado, CA (near San Diego), which was a Caesar salad, if not by name, by ingredients (but without anchovies).
In 1948, Lucius Beebe in Gourmet magazine said it was “the gastronomic highlight of the current moment” in Los Angeles as it was being served at Chasen’s, Romanoff’s, Hansen’s Scandia, Perino’s, the Town House, and the Brown Derby on Hollywood and Vine. But, curiously, a 1948 Brown Derby menu shows no Caesar salad listed.
In 1949 the Caesar salad became a nationwide fad and started appearing on menus across the country (“Fads of 1949” in the Britannica Book of the Year, 1950).
The original Caesar salad had no anchovies, but in a 1950 cookbook (Love and Dishes by Niccolo de Quattrochiocchi) a recipe was published from the Pump Room in Chicago which called for six anchovies to be chopped and added to the salad dressing. By 1957 Sunset magazine’s published recipe also called for anchovies.
Caesar’s restaurant today
Caesar Cardini portrait at Caesar’s – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
In the 1980s as a young man I went to Tijuana with friends to party and shop for shoes but I was soured by the atmosphere in the late 80s. Too many American college yahoos and sailors would fill the town on weekends, drinking until they got sick, yelling and carrying on. Every bar it seemed tried to shove cheap tequila down your throat whether you wanted it or not. So I stopped going there. My last visit was around 1989, though I went to Rosarito and Ensenada a few times in the early 90s. In 2012 I returned to Ensenada and I couldn’t believe how much it had changed for the better (as far as I’m concerned). American tourists mostly stopped going during the drug cartel violence of the 2000s. Now it’s mostly Mexican tourists (with a few adventurous American tourists) who don’t go just to get wasted on tequila, but go for the excellent food and the wine & beer. The cocktails are better, too. In the 80s I didn’t care if my margarita was made with a mix, but now I do.
Caesar’s bar – image by Dean Curtis, 2016
Going to Caesar’s today is a wonderful experience. The place was packed with people, many who dressed up for a night out. Perhaps not in suits like in this vintage postcard, but in nice clothes (no jeans and t’s).
Old postcard of Caesar’s Bar and Lounge
The first room at Caesar’s is long, with a bar on one side about a third of the way down the room. The ceilings are coffered wood and the floors are in a black & white checkerboard pattern. The walls are covered with dozens of old photographs and memorabilia of Tijuana.
Front dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
The menu is Continental. Some of their specialties (besides the Caesar salad) are beef Wellington, duckling a la orange, escargot, French onion soup, and ensalada Victor, invented in the 1940s at Victor’s restaurant in Tijuana, a salad of Cotija cheese, olive oil, egg, mayonnaise, and wine vinegar. But you can also get Mexican food, steaks, seafood, chicken dishes, and pasta.
Back dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
My friend and I shared a Caesar salad, which was made tableside by Armando, an ensaladero at Caesar’s for over 30 years! I also had a beef tongue appetizer, which was excellent, and beef Wellington, but I didn’t know that it would be cooked medium. It was very tender but a bit overdone for my liking. When you go, if you order steak, here are the Mexican-Spanish translations (from Quora): Rare = Casi cruda
Medium-rare = Medio cruda
Medium = Término medio
Medium-well = Tres cuartos
Well-done = Bien cocida
The Jab watching Armando prepare the Caesar salad at Caesar’s in Tijuana – photo by D. A. Kolodenko, 2016
Caesar’s Av. Revolución 1059, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico
Phone: +52 664 685 1927
Open Sun-Wed 10:00am-10:00pm, Thu-Sat 12:00pm-12:00am
The K. C. Steakhouse in Bakersfield was opened in 1939 by ‘Doc’ Kennedy from Oklahoma City at 630 Union Ave. In 1967 it moved into its current location at 2515 F Street, a restaurant formerly named Greg’s Hi Life, which originally opened in 1952. The interior is a combination of Mid-Century Modern and Western, with its free-form dropped ceiling, giant copper fireplace, red leatherette booths, and wagon-wheel chandeliers (most likely all installed in 1952), with some large mirrors framed by lights (added later). There have been several owners over the years. Today it is owned by Charlotte Carter and Terry Campbell.
fireplace and dining area – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
My photos are pretty dark, I hope but they give you a better idea of the atmosphere that way. The fireplace is used during the colder winter months but it wasn’t in use during my recent visit in early November.
amazing free-form ceiling with cool lighting – photo by Dean Curtis
The bar and lounge have several TVs and a live band most nights of the week, but from the dining room the TVs were far enough away to not be a distraction or an annoyance.
view of bar (foreground) and lounge from dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
The menu‘s focus is on steaks, of course, with several offered including a 22 oz. Porterhouse, top sirloin, NY strip (2 sizes), filet mignon (2 sizes), and ribeye (regular cut and a 20 oz. bone-in cut), as well as prime rib Thursday-Saturday. My choice was the Porterhouse. It was very good and cooked just right. Other entrees include rack of lamb, a stuffed pork chop (a hand cut, bone-in loin chop stuffed with apple stuffing, which is one of their specialties), beef liver, and several chicken & seafood dishes. Their lobster mac ‘n cheese is famous. Dinners are a good deal as they come with soup or salad, choice of potato or rice, vegetable, beans, salsa, and bread.
band – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
They have live music Tuesday-Saturday starting at 6:00 or 6:30, depending on the night. The music is a mix of oldies, many from the 1970s. The pianist, Jimmy Gaines, plays nightly, joined by guitarist Mike Hall and drummer Bobby O. on Fridays and Saturdays (in my photo above the drummer and guitarist are hidden behind the keyboard). They have a wooden dance floor and dancing is encouraged! We didn’t find the music too loud in the dining room to interfere with conversation.
K. C. Steakhouse 2515 F St, Bakersfield, CA 93301
Open Mon-Fri 11:00am-10:00pm (lounge open until midnight on Friday), Sat 4:30pm-12:00am (dinner served until 10:30; band plays until midnight), closed Sundays
For a long time I’ve been wanting to dine at the venerable Taix French Country Cuisine (the official name, though everyone just calls it “Tex”) in Echo Park in Los Angeles. Recently I passed through town during Los Angeles Restaurant Week and they were offering a special 2-course lunch for $20 (weekends included) so I jumped at the chance and had Saturday lunch in the bar (the dining room isn’t open for lunch on Saturday).
original Taix – photo by L.A. Public Library Archives
The original Taix restaurant was opened in 1927 by Marius Taix, Jr. in the ground floor of his father’s hotel, the Hotel Champ D’Or, at 321 Commercial Street in the French district of downtown. I believe that the hotel was a Basque boarding house, because the original Taix served food in the style of the many Basque hotel restaurants which still exist in California and Nevada.
original Taix – photo by L.A. Public Library Archives
As could be seen on the above sign food was served table d’hôte– multiple courses with a choice of entree – “family-style” on long tables. Taix specialized in roasted chicken dinner (50 cents in 1928) served with salad, a large tureen of soup, potato, vegetable, and French bread. When the restaurant would fill up at dinner time food was served until everyone was satisfied. So a single seating like some Basque restaurants still do today, such as at Noriega in Bakersfield.
Taix on Sunset Blvd – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
In 1962 Julius Jr.’s sons Raymond and Pierre, who started washing dishes at Taix when they were children, opened Le Frere Taix (The Brothers Taix) with some family partners on Sunset Blvd. (U.S. 66) in Los Angeles. The original downtown restaurant closed in 1964 to make way for a parking structure for the federal building. Raymond eventually became sole owner of the new restaurant and the name reverted back to Taix.
Raymond’s son Michael Taix runs the restaurant today, though Raymond remained involved in running it until he passed away in 2010. Next year it will be 90 years in operation by the same family! Speaking of longevity, many of Taix’s staff have been working there for decades. Three men, Jose Fragoso (banquet waiter), Fernando Gomez (bartender), and Bernard Inchauspe (dining room waiter), have worked there over 50 years!
Inside the Restaurant
321 Lounge – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
The bar and restaurant are suitably dark. There is a large TV at one end of the lounge and a small TV over the bar, but where I was sitting for lunch on one of the banquettes along the wall they weren’t obvious or annoying. The bar has entertainment on Wednesdays and Fridays so if you’re looking for some action those are the nights to go (or avoid if you’re looking for a quiet repast).
fireplace in waiting room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
There is a nice waiting area with some leather couches and a great fireplace which made me wonder if it is ever used anymore in the cooler months.
dining room – photo by Ruth V. on Yelp
The dining room was remodeled recently but it still has nice tin ceilings and chandeliers (though I don’t understand why they partly covered them up with shades – see photo below for before picture). There are booths upholstered in a floral fabric and fresh flowers in vases decorate the room. I think they have additional dining rooms but they may be for large parties and I didn’t get a good look when I was there because the lights were turned off.
2007 photo of chandelier and ceiling by Jessica Watkins on Flickr
1962 menu – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
As you can see above in the original menu from 1962 they still served primarily table d’hôte, with a choice from 4 entrees (pot roast, roasted chicken, filet of sole, or steak) or the daily special, which came with hors d’oeuvres, soup, salad, vegetable, potato, cheese, coffee, and sorbet. A lot like classic Basque restaurants in the West.
Today’s menu is much longer and a la carte, with several choices of entrée, including a different special each day, that comes with soup du jour or salad. For my lunch I had the excellent Moules Maison (mussels with leaks, wine, butter, and cream) and the Ahi tuna tartare, which was the perfect dish for a summer lunch.
duck a l’orange – photo by Taix restaurant
The dishes are tried-and-true classic French country cuisine (no haute cuisine here), such as duck a l’orange with wild rice (Saturdays), rabbit with mushrooms, pearl onions, and mustard (Thursdays), veal stew (Sundays), oven braised oxtail (Tuesdays), escargot, frogs legs Provencales, and steak frites. And the prices are reasonable.
Taix French Country Cuisine 1911 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Open Mon-Thu 11:30am-10:00pm, Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat 12:00pm-11pm, Sun 12:00pm-10:00pm, 321 Lounge menu is served Wed-Sat from 10:00pm-1:00am
Note: On Saturdays lunch is served in the 321 Lounge
We’ve covered a lot of Basque restaurants here on Le Continental, being a big fan of the type of restaurant, the food, and the people. On good ol’ Route 66 east of Los Angeles I happened upon another one last summer when I spotted the sign “Glendora Continental Restaurant”, which of course caught my eye.
The restaurant was opened in 1980 by Jean and Elisabeth Sabarots, who came from the Basque Country of Europe. Jean Saborots (1936-2012) came from the town of Osses. He emigrated to the U.S. at 19 years old to work as a sheepherder, later working in dairies, and eventually becoming a bartender. In 1964 he returned to the Basque Country and met Elisabeth Larralde (1937-2005) from the town of Lecumberri, who was working in a hotel. They returned to the U.S. together, got married in 1966, and managed The Little Inn Smorgasbord in Covina (later owning it) until they opened Glendora Continental.
Jean and Elisabeth Sabarots – image by Glendora Continental
The bar and lounge in Glendora Continental has entertainment most nights of the week – Bingo on Mondays, karaoke on Tuesdays, live piano on first Thursdays, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
bar entrance – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
the bar – image by Glendora Continental
But my visit was for dinner so I entered through the Continental entrance – of course!
main entrance – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
The dining room has booths of tufted brown vinyl, classy chandeliers, and plaques of the Lauburu, the Basque Country symbol.
dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
menu – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
The restaurant’s menu offers the complete Basque “set up” for $28 with your choice of the daily special entrees. This comes with pickled tongue, house made soup and salad, a stuffed puff pastry (optional), sliced ham, the main course with potato and vegetable, great homemade bread, cheese, fruit and dessert, plus wine! A feast! Of course I got the full set up and had a hard time eating it all. If you don’t want that much food you can get one of many available entrees of chicken, fish, lamb, beef or pasta, which come with soup and salad or pickled tongue, potato or rice, vegetable, and bread. Entrees range in price from $12 to $48 and they have early bird specials and daily specials at $14.
soup course (cream of broccoli) – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
pickled tongue – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
puff pastry stuffed with mushrooms in a creamy sauce – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
I wasn’t sure how to eat the cured meat (which I believe was Jambon de Bayonne) served with hunks of butter. Spread the butter on the ham and eat it rolled up, perhaps?
ham with butter – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
main course of lamb chops (which are on end in this pic) – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
cheese plate – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
It was a pleasant surprise finding this restaurant! The food was very good but next time I’ll bring some friends to share with because it was a lot of food for one (or I’ll just get a regular entree and not the set up)!
Glendora Continental 316 W Rte 66, Glendora, CA 91740
Open M-Thu 11:00am-3:00pm, 5:00pm-9:00pm, Fri 11:00am-3:00pm, 5:00pm-10:00pm, Sat 11:00am–10:00pm, Sun 10:30pm-3:00pm with limited menu, bar open daily 11am-2am