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Jan 2, 2010 02:30 PM

is brennan's for brunch overrated?

We will be in NOLA this week for the first time. My guidebook made sunday brunch at brennan's sound unmissable, but a lot of reviews online seem to imply that it is overrated and too expensive. I don't mind expensive, if it's worth it, so I just wanted to get people's opinions on brennan's sunday brunch. If you don't like brennan's, then what else would you recommend for sunday brunch?
Also, any other suggestions for great restaurants?
Thanks for your help!

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  1. Yes.

    Commander's Palace is our favorite for Sunday brunch. Palace Cafe is also good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ddavis

      Thanks! We are already going to commander's for Friday lunch though. so maybe palace cafe. any other suggestions, or any other can't miss restaurants we should know about? Is willie mae's worth it? how hard is it to walk there from the FQ? is there a bus up that way?

    2. I think the objections to Brennan's usually cite the combination of food and price: it attaches luxury prices to essentially low-cost brunch foods like eggs benedict or eggs sardou. One can get as-good-or-better renditions of these foods at less touristy restaurants for a fraction of the cost. However, I don't believe there's anything intrinsically wrong with Brennan's, if money is no object and you're intrigued.

      If you're turned off by other reviews, though, Palace Cafe is a good option, though still pricey and only slightly less touristy. Commander's is still the best "fancy brunch" in the city, in my opinion -- and I'd choose Saturday or Sunday Jazz Brunch there over Friday lunch. Can you swap out meals and have Friday lunch elsewhere?

      I'd also suggest Stanley on Jackson Square -- much more casual, standard egg-and-hollandaise menu, but very well-executed and less expensive.

      A lot of locals like to go to Patois, Slim Goodie's, and Surrey's for brunch. None of these are in the FQ.

      4 Replies
      1. re: HalfShell

        yeah, i just don't want to spend a ton of money at brennan's if it is not REALLY awesome!
        where would you suggest for another friday lunch spot?
        i've been considering galatoire's for dinner, but maybe that could be friday lunch?
        also, what about arnaud's for brunch?
        i'm sort of overwhelmed. there are just too many great restaurants in NOLA!!!
        stanley looks good too.

        1. re: beck123

          Friday lunch at Galatoire's is a scene, but it's worth experiencing in my opinion. You must sit downstairs, and they don't take reservations, which means unless you get there before the crowds you could wait a while for a table. (See countless other threads about Galatoire's.)

          You seem to be tending toward very old-fashioned places, which might be your preference. Some restaurants with more contemporary flavors in the Quarter (or nearby) include: Bayona, Nola, Stella, Herbsaint, Cochon, Muriel's, MiLa, August, and the list goes on and on. For Friday lunch, if you decide against Galatoire's, I'd suggest August, Herbsaint, Bayona or Cochon. That's one Besh, two Links, and a Spicer -- hard to go wrong with those.

          1. re: HalfShell

            hmmm, too many option! :) thanks for all your help.
            i am kind of leaning towards more old fashioned places because our trip is, in part, inspired by "bull cook" by george herter. he really loved galatoire's and antoine's!

          2. re: beck123

            Since about 2007, they have been awesome for us. Otherwise, we'd not have changed our minds, regarding them as a brunch venue.

            Now, we've not done an evening meal there, since about 1975, but much of that has been because we have a full "dance card," when we're back in the City.



        2. I once thought so, back when I lived in NOLA in the '70s. After being gone for decades, we found ourselves needing a brunch location in the FQ. I chose Brennan's on a whim (long story in my review of a few years ago). The service and the food were excellent. Next year, we redid Brennan's and all was as good, if not better. Six months later, we were back in the City, and did them yet again. Same thing. What turned me off, many years ago, seemed to be history.

          From my last three visits, I can recommend it. We will be back on our next trip over, and I anticipate that it will deliver.

          I cannot fault others here, who feel that it is long pasted its prime. I once felt the same way, but they changed my mind. It is not cheap, nor is it quick, but then it's brunch and in the FQ.

          We've also enjoyed Ralph's on the Park for brunch, and have made it our location our last meal, prior to our afternoon flight back to PHX.



          PS - I would guess that all of my intimate reviews of Brennan's are still on ChowHound, if you are interested in the details.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Bill Hunt

            thank you for your help! i really want to do a classic FQ brunch. The last time i was in NOLA I was 3! i have these vague, dream like memories of chasing pigeons across a big open space with a large statue in the center. I think it was Jackson Square! And I remember being in this tugboat playhouse right on the river. Lol. It's been awhile, and I've always wanted to go back. Such a cool city.

            1. re: beck123

              I ate at Brennan's about a year ago, and the food and service were excellent. Of course, as others note, you can get great food and service elsewhere as well. For me, the must-dos in New Orleans are Commanders Palace and the Central Grocery, and then on to a mix of other restaurants Still, breakfast at Brennans in an Experience, and it seems to fit right in with what you're looking for in this trip, so go for it.

              1. re: dcbbq

                I enjoyed Arnaud's for a French Quarter brunch in 2004. I did Brennan's for a weekday breakfast once and enjoyed it, but I will probably not do it again unless I get rich. I love Commander's for Sunday brunch, not just for the food, but for the service, atmosphere, and jazz band.

                Bigray in Ok

              2. re: beck123

                I have just attempted to tell things, as I encountered them. When I made that first reservation (in over a decade, I must add), and reported the same to my wife, she rolled her eyes a bit. I understood, as I had trepidations too. We so enjoyed ourselves, that on the next trip over, when we were planning a brunch for her mom and her governess, my wife jumped in with "let's book Brennan's again. I really enjoyed that." Now, she's the NOLA native, and I am only from the "environs" (Mississippi Gulf Coast). They did it again. Next trip over, all of these ladies asked if we could do Brennan's once again. They were all overjoyed by the really good food, and the excellent service.

                Now, I do have to admit that the other replies here cite some great restaurants. I have not done Arnaud's for brunch in many decades, but had felt about them, as I once did Brennan's. Just pre-K, we found ourselves hosting a dinner for some first-time NOLA visitors there. We were most pleased with that dinner, and our guests loved it. My wife was on pins-and-needles, as these were her new people from Phoenix, and she was the "native." She breathed a big sigh of relief, when we left and all the guests wanted to make sure that they had the address and all info. We left for another city and another meeting, and the group went back to Arnaud's, on their own, and reported that it was excellent again. That spoke volumes to me, and to my wife.

                Now, Commander's Palace has not been batting so well with us. This was our special occasion restaurant, and we'd fly in from Denver, or Phoenix, for my wife's birthday there, mainly because we'd celebrated almost all of those, at CP, when we lived in NOLA. Going back some years now, they began to let us down. I swore off CP, but my wife hosted a group of executives there on our last trip. These were people who were instrumental to her success and very dear to her. Commander's was OK, but we just left scratching our heads. They were good, but no more. From my personal experiences, over about 40 years, they seem to have lost their luster. Even the turtle soup, the paradigm for us, was a shell of itself. The service was competent, but nothing to wax poetic about. Were I a restaurant consultant, I would immediately tell them to stop - re-tool and re-think. I am not advocating any change in the menu, but a big change in how they do things, and especially the service. It should be better, than it has become. I want to fall back in love with them. My wife feels the same. There are 4 decades of memories invested there. That is not "chump change."

                Now, that is not saying that they cannot do it perfectly, but over the last 4 visits, they do not seem to be interested in doing so, and that is a horrible shame.

                Now, like you, I have memories of NOLA, from trips that my family made on the L&N from the Coast. This became my "city of light." My mother enjoyed shopping on Canal St., and also the wonderful restaurants. This was a "vacation" for her, and also a trip back in time, to when she was at Sophie Newcomb. I got to tag along, and learned to wear a jacket, at about age 5, to dine. This was something that we just did not do on the Coast. I can probably recount almost every trip, and every dining experience, and that was almost 60 years ago. That is why I feel so horribly offended by some of the great restaurants, and always wish them well, in hopes that they can regain their past glory.

                Still, there are wonderful restaurants in NOLA, both old and new ones. I dine around the world, and it's still my favorite dining destination. I only wish that I had three months, and an unlimited expense account, to spend there.

                Most of all, enjoy and take in the City. It has so very much to offer, and nearly all of it is great.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  wow, thanks for all the great help! i feel like i have an edge on the city now. :)
                  We decided on Arnaud's for Sunday lunch, rather than brennans's, and also commander's for friday lunch, and galatoire's for thursday dinner. Those are the "big 3" for us... brennan's sounds wonderful, but i might have to take out a second mortgage if we ate there too! we leave for NOLA on wednesday! I can't wait to be there.

                  1. re: beck123

                    Please come back and post a detailed report. Looking forward to reading it!

            2. Our last meal at Brennan's will definitely be our last. The service was so bad that we left in the middle of the meal.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pikawicca

                We had encountered similar in the '70s, so I held my breath for our first brunch back not that long ago. In each of the three meals, the service was excellent and in every aspect (wine glasses could stand an upgrade). Sorry that you had a bad experience.


              2. Our NOLA trip:

                Back from our trip! It was an awesome trip, I am in love with New Orleans!

                We ate at Acme Oyster bar our first night there, and the oysters were outstanding! BBQ oysters are wonderful. We split an oyster/shrimp po boy which was also great.
                Then we toured the bars on bourbon street and had waaaaaaaaaaay too much fun.
                2nd day, we saw St. Louis #1, which was beautiful. Lunch was a muffelata from central grocery! It was the biggest sandwich I have ever seen, and delicious. For dinner we tried Felix's, and I was disappointed with their oysters; they just weren't as fresh.
                3rd day we went to the garden district, and went to Commander's Palace. The .25 cent martinis were great! I got shrimp over grits, hubby got BBQ pork loin with sweet potatoes. It was all spot on, wonderful. The shrimp were as big around as a baby's arm, and nearly as long! For dessert we split the chocolate torte and bread pudding. I loved the bread pudding, it was capped with some kind of springy meringue, and had a wonderful whisky sauce. For dinner we had Acme again, because I love oysters like crazy, and I discovered their roast beef po boy. It was awesome.
                4th day, breakfast at Stella! Their eggs stella are just awesome, eggs benedict with fried oysters. mmmmmmm. Lunch at Ralph and Kacoo's, we just had some oysters and oysters rockefeller, and oh yeah fried pickles! We went barhopping, and had the best hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's. Yeah, I know it's basically rum and kool aid, but they were great. We had a late dinner at Remoulade, we got oysters rockefeller and some cajun sampler platter. Great red beans and rice!
                5th day We had brunch at Arnaud's. WONDERFUL place! The people there made it my favorite restaurant. Our waiter was so nice! And the older man who took our drink orders and made the orgasmic bananas foster was just awesome. The jazz trio playing was wonderful! I got the fish meuniere. It was just wonderful. Perfectly fried, moist sweet fish, with a lovely, tangy, velvety sauce. Served with potatoes brabant and green beans that were the crispest, most perfect green beans I have ever had. Oysters for an appetizer! Hubby got the filet and french fries for breakfast. It was wonderful! We shared bananas foster for dessert, now my favorite dessert! It was so good, and the care that our waiter took in preparing it table side was wonderful! Ohhhh... mmm... that sauce was just awesome and the ice cream was so creamy and perfect.
                I spent the rest of the day wandering around near tears because I couldn't believe we'd be leaving the next day!
                Dinner was at Muriel's Jackson square. I ... the food was wonderful... but... it was snooty, very, very snooty. Arnaud's and Commander's were both fancy, class acts, but they never made me feel like they were! Muriel's was very much aware of just how chic they are, and I was turned off by that. We split the yellowtail carpaccio, best appetizer of the trip! I got the blackened redfish (good, but a little salty, served with some bizarre mushy, flavorless crab stuffing on the side!) and hubby got the mahi mahi fish of the day over vegetables. Food was good, didn't like the snooty atmosphere.
                6th day: Breakfast at Stella! again. Hubby got omelette sandwich, I got bananas foster french toast, which was awesome!
                NOLA cocktails we tried:
                Ramos Gin Fizz
                bourbon milk punch (like a thinner eggnog)
                sazerac (knocked my socks off! but good)
                pimm's cup (spot on, wonderful beverage!)

                And the verdict is... NOLA, I adore you, love you, and will be back for more, maybe even for Mardi Gras next year. As I (somewhat drunkenly) proclaimed to the bartender at Pat O'Brien's (the piano bar is a hoot!) New Orleans is the BEST city in the world. Yes, it sure as heck is.

                9 Replies
                1. re: beck123

                  Sounds like an awesome trip! Glad you had fun. Also nice to see someone else try Remoulade. It's not much to look at but it's a good option for late night, inexpensive food. You're the only other person I've ever seen on here even mention it.

                  1. re: beck123

                    great job! tho your breakfasts -- thsoe were at Stanley and not Stella, right?

                    interesting about Murial's coming off snooty -- my complaint about them is they are way too casual, often catering to the tourist crowd complete w/ jeans & t-shirts.

                    now just move on down!

                    1. re: kibbles

                      lol, right Stanley! sorry, got them mixed up. :) Actually, another thing I was upset about is that I called and asked if they had a dress code. they said no, just wear jeans, whatever. I had NO idea it was that fancy a place, I'd never been there before! So I felt like a total idiot in my tourist gear. We had dressed up for both Commander's and Arnaud's. I think Muriel's should have a dress code too for pete's sake, it was too fancy for jeans! So if you see tourists there in jeans- it's because their staff told them to come on down in jeans. lol.

                      1. re: beck123

                        Do not feel badly. When one has Eggs Stella!, the easy conclusion would be that they had dined at Stella!


                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          i point it out only so the poster knows and can recommend in the future the proper restaurant.

                    2. re: beck123

                      Thank you so much for the report and review.

                      Now, on Day 4, did you have breakfast at Stella!, or at the sister restaurant, Stanley? The latter also has Eggs Stella! Just curious.

                      The experience at Muriel's is odd. The only problem that I have ever had was with the food. The service was always good, but then most of these were events, of sorts, so they probably do not count fully.

                      Again, thanks for the report, and glad that you enjoyed the trip.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        lol, sorry I meant Stanley. :) The appetizer was very good, I just was sort of put off by the bizarre mound of goopy crab stuffing. I think I mostly felt like an idiot because they told me to wear jeans...see above post...maybe that was why we got kind of snooty service? at any rate, it was a lovely trip and thanks to everyone here for your advice! we are going back next year for sure. Wonderful, beautiful city!

                        1. re: beck123

                          "The appetizer was very good, I just was sort of put off by the bizarre mound of goopy crab stuffing."

                          I find that some chefs overuse crab and sauces to bump up dishes by US$20. All too often, this does not go with the dishes, but they seem too popular. One chef, on the MS Gulf Coast, was just adding some crab and a "goopy" sauce, and calling it a "signature dish," at a very premium price. To me, that is not what dish creation is all about, but then I am not a chef.

                          Yes, I caught the reply up-thread, on Stanley/Stella! [is there an ! in Stanley?]



                      2. re: beck123

                        Very fun review. Thanks for posting!