In New Orleans, one restaurant is synonymous with breakfast: Brennan’s. “Breakfast at Brennan’s” has become shorthand for a quintessential Big Easy ritual: a big, boisterous meal of Creole-influenced egg dishes and other classic New Orleans fare, washed down with a cocktail or three and finished with a tableside flambé of bananas Foster (and, presumably, a nap). It’s something that every New Orleans visitor (or local) should experience at least once, and on a recent trip to the city, we had the chance to experience it for ourselves at the restaurant's invitation.
Brennan’s was founded by Owen Brennan in 1946 and moved to its current location (a 1795 mansion) in 1956. It’s gone through several ownership changes since then, but has never left the Brennan family; current owners Ralph Brennan and Terry White acquired it from Brennan’s cousins in 2013, thoroughly renovated and revitalized it, and re-opened it the following year.
When we visited, we were seated in the showstopping Chanteclair Room, the restaurant’s French orangerie-inspired main dining room (there are five additional dining spaces across its two floors), with its soft green trellis, whimsical murals, and green leather banquettes. It’s the ideal room for breakfast, as a large glass wall lets in plenty of natural light from the adjacent courtyard.
We started our meal with appetizers of New Orleans BBQ Lobster and a baked apple. The lobster, a creation of James Beard Award-nominated current chef Slade Rushing, is a brilliant take on traditional barbecue shrimp, with two big chunks of lobster atop a crouton, in a pool of rich, buttery lobster stock-based sauce. It was complex and delicious, a truly luxurious appetizer that’s also a star on the dinner menu.
The baked apple was also delicious, an old-fashioned breakfast classic of a slow-roasted peeled apple topped with an oatmeal pecan raisin crumble, a dollop of crème fraiche, and brown sugar glaze.
For our main courses, we opted for three of the classic Benedict-style egg preparations — Hussarde, Sardou, and Owen — along with Steak Diane, which comes and goes from the menu, but is a popular off-menu item.
Eggs Hussarde (invented at the restaurant and now a local breakfast staple) tops homemade English muffins with poached eggs, coffee-cured Canadian bacon, and both hollandaise and red wine-based marchand de vin sauce with mushrooms.
Eggs Sardou replaces the English muffin with breaded and fried artichoke hearts, tops the eggs with a tomato béarnaise called choron sauce, and is plated atop parmesan creamed spinach.
Eggs Owen is a messy and delicious pool of marchand de vin and hollandaise topped with red wine-braised short rib “debris,” crispy fingerling potatoes, and two poached eggs.
The steak Diane was two perfectly cooked filet mignon medallions, cooked tableside and topped with mushrooms and marchand de vin, served with two fried eggs.
Anything that marchand de vin touches turns to gold, thanks to its rich, slow-cooked meatiness, and every detail was on point, from the perfectly poached eggs to the slow-cooked debris.
Bananas Foster, prepared tableside by sautéing halved bananas in plenty of brown sugar and butter, then flambéing them with brandy and banana liqueur and serving it atop vanilla ice cream, was the perfect icing on a very delicious, very calorific meal.
You can wash it all down with house-made soda or expertly made chicory coffee, but you might as well go all-out and opt for a signature cocktail like Caribbean Milk Punch (Mount Gay rum, Buffalo Trace bourbon, heavy cream, vanilla bean, and nutmeg) or Sparkling Strawberry (local strawberries, basil, and sparkling wine).
In New Orleans, breakfast is just as important a meal as dinner, if not more so. And at Brennan’s, breakfast becomes a special occasion unto itself.
The meal that is the subject of this review was provided at no cost to the writer.