A New Orleans Original Since 1946By: The Local Palate
One of Ralph Brennan’s favorite boyhood places to play was the wine cellar at Brennan’s Restaurant, where his aunts Ella and Adelaide Brennan would let him loose while they worked the dinner service. It is fittingly full circle, then, that half a century later, Ralph oversees the French Quarter’s most regal—not to mention spirited—adult play group: breakfast at Brennan’s, a tradition that his uncle, Owen Brennan, established in the 1950s.
While playtime and formal dinners at Brennan’s comprise some of Ralph Brennan’s earliest memories, he built his own restaurant empire as an adult while two of his cousins operated the eponymous family legacy on Royal Street. Brennan’s other restaurants include Ralph’s on the Park, Red Fish Grill, Café B, Café NOMA, Heritage Grill, and Napoleon House. In 2013, Ralph purchased Brennan’s with business partner Terry White. Following an extensive renovation and with a completely new staff in place, the restaurant reopened roughly a year and a half later, its tone reset.
Knocking down walls to let in natural light brightened the restaurant’s ambiance while maintaining its core structure, and updating Brennan’s kitchen did the equivalent for its food. Brennan’s is known for a dark-roux seafood gumbo, a traditional New Orleans turtle soup with house-preserved lemon, and grillades with overnight-braised pork shoulder instead of the more customary veal. Subtler changes to the age-old classic dish Eggs Sardou made it the showstopper during breakfast. How to improve upon the Sardou’s four time-tested ingredients—creamed spinach, artichoke bottoms, poached eggs, and Choron sauce (béarnaise plus tomato)? Answer: choose the largest, freshest artichokes possible, bread their bottoms in panko crumbs, and then deep-fry them with a Southerner’s greaseless touch.
Teetotalers might be in the minority at Brennan’s, even at 8 am, but breakfast’s greatest comfort is available to all—cast-iron-dark coffee and chicory, served with a mini pitcher of hot milk. Serve alongside their iconic Bananas Foster (a Brennan’s invention) flamed table-side for dessert and an overwhelming sense of bonhomie.