New Orleans Food Tour: Brennan’s

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

A disappointing breakfast at a beautiful restaurant.

Brennan’s is one of New Orleans famed historical restaurants. It opened on Bourbon Street in 1946 as Owen Brennan’s Vieux Carre Restaurant, and moved to its present location after the death of its founder. The restaurant, located in an 18th century building, underwent major restorations last decade, and it’s now famous for its several outrageously beautiful dining rooms, which so toe the line between elegant and kitschy. The front dining room, where we had breakfast, was wonderfully fun and Disneyesque. We could have been in a set from Beauty and the Beast.

Despite its age, Brennan is still a very popular restaurant in New Orleans, and its particularly noted for its breakfasts. Indeed, I read so much about them that I made reservations to eat there out last morning in New Orleans, despite the fact that I usually don’t eat breakfast. Alas, it proved a mistake. As lovely as the surroundings were, the food was underwhelming and overpriced.

As I wasn’t very hungry, and was planning to have after-breakfast dessert, I ordered the Shallot Tarte Tatin (caramelized shallots, sherry caramel, puff pastry, taleggio – $15.00). I expected the portion to be small, given that it was a (breakfast) appetizer, though perhaps not so small – still, it was delicious. I’d been afraid that the puff pastry would overwhelm the shallots, as is often the case, including when I’ve made similar tarts. Here, however, the puff pastry was barely there. There was just enough of it to hold the shallots together, and the chef must be recognized for this achievement. I will definitely try to copy this sometime. The shallots were perfectly caramelized and just beautiful, and they went wonderfully with the warmed cheese – which maybe needed to be a tad warmer so it wouldn’t cool down before I finished eating it. Still, this was a very successful dish, and for that reason, worth its rather steep price.

Brennan’s offers both New Orleans style chicory mixed coffee, and regular coffee from a local roaster. I had a pot of the latter ($9), and it was fine, though nothing to write home about. It did feel overpriced.

Mike had the Crawfish Omelette Cardinal (Vital Farms eggs, Louisiana crawfish tails, lemon scented Mascarpone, sauce Cardinal  – $28.00) and he was very disappointed in it. The biggest sin was that the crawfish were served separately from the omelette, instead of being incorporated into the omelette itself. The omelette, on its own, was pedestrian. He liked the dish, but was not awed by it and found it overpriced for what it was.

Mike had a French Quarter Fest (honeydew purée, Chareau aloe liqueur, sparkling wine – $15), which was basically a honeydew melon mimosa. He enjoyed quite a bit, and it has inspired me to try mixing champagne with a variety of fruit juices and purees to see which ones might work.

One of Brennan’s main claims to fame is that its antecedent restaurant was the originator of Bananas Foster. As the story goes, Ella Brennan created the dish based on a dessert her mother used to make and named it after Richard Foster, the chairman of the New Orleans Crime Commission and a friend of her husband’s. That meant that we had to have the dish. You can only order it for at least 2 people, at $14 per person.

At Brennan’s, the waiter will come and flambee the dish table side. This means that you can see everything that goes into it: an enormous amount of butter and sugar and a banana, split in two. The banana is then served with the resulting toffee sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m sorry to say that as much as we loved the show – and enjoyed seeing kids seating nearby be fascinated by the flambeeing -, the results were underwhelming. The toffee sauce was unbelievably sweet – or rather, quite believable – and the banana didn’t really have the time to absorb much of it, it just slid off it. The ice cream was quite bland, and didn’t really work with the caramel. It was just not worth the sugar content.

Service was fine though uneven. The floor manager in our dining room – I don’t recall what title he used when he introduced himself – was an incredible salesman, welcoming everyone into the restaurant and convincing patrons that yes, in New Orleans, breakfast cocktails were a thing. It was a pleasure just to see him work the room. The waiters themselves were less impressive.

In all, I felt this was our most disappointing meal in New Orleans, as well as our most overpriced one, and it’s the one place I would not return to, at least for breakfast.

417 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA
M-F: 9 am - 2 pm, 6 - 10 pm
Sa-Su: 8 am - 2 pm, 6 - 10 pm

New Orleans Food Tour

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