WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Brennan's preserves a style of dining popular in the 1950s and 1960s, before New Orleans became gourmet. But its bedrock of standard dishes is so strong that they get away with this--and at the town's top prices, yet. Breakfast at Brennan's--the meal really needs a different name--is without question the most opulent morning meal served anywhere. It's something every New Orleanian should experience at least once. Dinner is sedate but good, with added interest from a wine cellar that's always been one of the best in the nation.
WHY IT'S GOOD
Brennan's has always bought first-class foodstuffs and cooked them well, if in an old style. That style was created by its first chef, Paul Blange, who was so brilliant that his recipes continue to wow diners after all these years. In its specialties, Brennan's is hard to beat. Turtle soup, egg dishes, veal grillades, unusual steaks--nobody does them better. The menu is enormous--so much so that the list below only captured the high points.
Brennan's was the first major New Orleans restaurant to open in the years after World War II, a glorious time for this city. With Europe in ruins, gourmets from around the world came to New Orleans. Brennan's was in those days what K-Paul's was in the 1980s, Emeril's was in the 1990s, and August is in the 2000s. In its early years it was inventive and exciting, creating many new dishes and an entirely new meal. Breakfast at Brennan's was said to be an old New Orleans tradition, but really they made it all up from whole cloth. It became a spectacular and unique dining experience.
Brennan's premiered on the corner of Bourbon and Bienville in 1946, and moved to where it is now in 1955. Right before the move Owen Brennan, the founder, died at 45. His brothers, sisters, and sons took over the management and continued to enhance the restaurant. Brennan's expanded into other restaurants and cities, but the expansion put stress on the family. In 1973, the family went through a nasty split, with Owen's sons taking control of Brennan's and their aunts and uncles taking all the rest, with Commander's Palace as their new headquarters. After that, Brennan's settled into a groove from which it has never left. Its menu is largely the same as it was in the 1970s, and its last two chefs have been old-line masters who've worked there for decades. Nevertheless, it has remained solidly good. Brennan's history is the most complex tale in the annals of the New Orleans restaurant business. It's well told in both of the Brennan's Restaurant cookbooks.
Brennan's occupies an historic building around a classic French Quarter courtyard. Dining rooms on two floors flanks two sides of the slate-paved, lushly planted courtyard. The best dining rooms are the one just past the bar, and the Terrace, a long gallery alongside windows onto the patio. The upstairs dining rooms are beautiful--one has a working gasolier--but except for private parties and a few tables whose windows open onto the courtyard, they're to be avoided.
ESSENTIAL MENU [*=Recommended]
Breakfast (all of this is also available at lunch and dinner):
Eggs Sardou (artichokes, creamed spinach, hollandaise)
Eggs Bayou Lafourche (andouille, hollandaise)
Eggs St. Charles (fried trout, hollandaise)
Eggs Hussarde Canadian bacon, tomato, marchad de vin sauce and hollandaise)
Eggs Shannon (fried trout, creamed spinach)
Eggs Nouvelle Orléans (crabmeat, brandy cream sauce)
Grillades and grits
Buster crabs with pecans
Crepes Barbara (with seafood)
Trout Kottwitz (artichokes, mushrooms)
Trout Nancy (crabmeat, capers)
Redfish Jaime (crabmeat, red wine sauce)
Veal with crabmeat and pecans
Salmon Audubon (grilled, Creole mustard hollandaise, shrimp)
Chicken Lazone (spicy, tasso cream sauce)
Tournedos Taylor (two, with bearnaise on one and marchand de vin on the other)
Filet Stanley (marchand de vin, creamy horseradish sauce, and baked bananas)
Crepes Fitzgerald (cream cheese and strawberries)
Chocolate pecan pie
FOR BEST RESULTS
When making reservations and showing up at the desk, make certain they know you're a local person, and that you want to sit downstairs. There is an attractively-priced lunch menu weekdays that's designed for locals. Ask for it; the waiters don't always bring it.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The prices are too high. Much of the menu is in need of brushing up to current taste standards. They really ought to enforce a dress code in the better dining rooms.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +3
- Consistency +1
- Service +2
- Value -1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar +3
- Local Color +3
- Outdoor tables, drinks only
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open most holidays
- Unusually large servings
- Free valet parking
- Reservations honored promptly
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