UPDATE – Brennan’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

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.

 

Chanteclair Room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

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

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 - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

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

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

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

The Jab and friends at Brennan’s – photo by waiter, 2016

 

Brennan’s
417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 525-9711
Open Mon-Fri 9:00am – 10:00pm, Sat-Sun 8:00am – 10:00pm

 

 

Brennan’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

UPDATE: When I first posted this Brennan’s had just closed. The restaurant reopened in late 2013 with a completely redone interior. It looks very elegant, with respect for the past traditions of Brennan’s and New Orleans. In 2016 I revisited this landmark restaurant. Meanwhile, Ted Brennan and family, previous owners, are opening Ted Brennan’s Decatur, with executive chef Lazone Randolph, former chef at the old Brennan’s for many years (as seen in the video below), with a more traditional menu than the new Brennan’s.

New Orleans has an incredibly rich history, and no shortage of historic restaurants, some dating back well over 100 years (Antoine’s – 1840, Tujague’s – 1856, Commander’s Palace – 1880, Galatoire’s – 1905, Arnaud’s – 1918, Broussard’s – 1920). Sadly, one of the more recent of the city’s famous classic restaurants, Brennan’s, closed last Thursday, June 26th, 2013, after 67 years in business.

 

Brennan's, New Orleans, December 1964

Brennan’s, New Orleans, December 1964 by Michael Berch on Flickr.com

 

Brennan’s was opened on Royal St. in 1956 by Owen Edward Brennan, who took over the Old Absinthe House in 1943 and opened the adjacent Vieux Carre restaurant on Bourbon St. in 1946. But unfortunately he died of a heart attack in 1955, only months before his new restaurant was scheduled to open. The Brennan family assumed ownership, opened Brennan’s restaurants in Houston and Dallas, purchased Commander’s Palace in 1969, and opened three more restaurants. This growth caused a rift as some of the family thought the quality could not be maintained at the original Brennan’s in such a large corporation. So, in 1974 Owen’s widow Maude and her sons Pip, Jimmy and Ted assumed control of the original Brennan’s, with daughter Ella taking over the remaining six restaurants (of these only Commander’s Palace and Brennan’s in Houston are still open).

 

Vintage Brennan's breakfast menu

Vintage Brennan’s breakfast menu

 

Brennan’s has been famous for “Breakfast at Brennan’s” since the 1950s. It is such a tradition that I had to do it once, so on my last visit to New Orleans in 2010 I decided to take the splurge. The traditional Brennan’s breakfast is lavish. I started with a Brandy Milk Punch, one of their specialty cocktails. My breakfast consisted of turtle soup (a famous New Orleans’ dish), Eggs Hussard, a Brennan’s creation of Poached eggs atop Holland rusks, Canadian bacon and Marchand de Vin sauce, all topped with Hollandaise sauce, and their specialty French bread, brought warm to your table. For dessert (yes, dessert was part of Breakfast at Brennan’s) I had another Brennan’s creation – Bananas Foster.

 

Bananas Foster at Brennan's

Bananas Foster at Brennan’s, photo by The Jab in 2010

 

Brennan’s survived Hurricane Katrina, when they lost their enormous wine collection, but it may not survive the recent takeover. The restaurant was sold at auction recently to Ralph Brennan, a restaurateur and cousin of Ted and Pip Brennan. The restaurant was evicted last week, so it closed with no warning to the employees, many of them having been with the restaurant for decades.

It may eventually reopen as Brennan’s. It may have better food, which frankly wasn’t very exceptional when I went (for the prices). But as I’ve tried to stress in my blog the food isn’t the most important thing when eating in classic restaurants: the time travel experience is paramount, the food secondary. Hopefully whatever Brennan’s becomes it will continue to serve the original Bananas Foster (which was the best thing I had there). Le Continental will keep you posted.

I hope this isn’t a portend of the demise of more of New Orleans’ historic restaurants. When I was there in 1999 most of the high-end restaurants were the historic ones. As far as newer ones, there was Emeril’s and Dickie Brennan’s Palace Cafe (we ate there on that visit, as well as Commander’s Palace). But there weren’t nearly as many gourmet restaurants then as there are now. It seems like it would be hard to compete with new places if you are running an old-fashioned, expensive restaurant with rich French/Creole food in a large space with multiple rooms. In my visits to Tujague’s and Galatoire’s in 2010 it didn’t seem like any younger tourists or locals were eating in those places.

 

Brennan’s
417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel, New Orleans

The Carousel at the Monteleone Hotel - New Orleans, Louisiana

One of my favorite bars in New Orleans. The decor has changed a lot, unfortunately, but the round bar still rotates! And the cocktails are excellent. I recommend the Vieux Carré, invented at the Monteleone Hotel in 1938 by Walter Bergeron.

Monteleone Hotel
214 Royal Street  New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 523-3341
Open daily, 7 days a week from 11:00am – 1:00am