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Brennan's: Great foodie destination or tourist trap?

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So I'm headed to New Orleans for a weekend in April and would like to ask for wisdom from the masses. My partner has made a dinner reservation for Brennan's on a friday night. His brother calls it "the quintessential New Orleans experience" and says that we have to do dinner there for the food, the service and the classic atmosphere. I respect his brother, but his recommendations are good only about 75% of the time (he loves Anthony's Pier 4 in Boston, I do not. But he did recommend a great little place in Albuquerque). My partner and I both like to consider ourselves gourmands and are really looking to take advantage of what New Orleans has to offer.

So here’s the question: is it worth it? We’re only there for three dinners and two lunches. From the reviews I’ve seen on yelp, I am not completely reassured. I love reading about the history of the place and I would love to try a bananas foster there; some reviewers, however, have really harsh words for the food. Not all, mind you, some say that it’s out of this world great (but then again, some people say that about Anthony's Pier 4).

Neither of us has been to New Orleans before and we don't want to make a mistake on restaurant selection, so I'd love your reassurances that Brennan's is fantastic and amazing and a not to be missed- that's what I want to hear... ... ... but only if it's the truth.

While this may be my first post, I’ve lurked on chowhound for years, and I trust you ladies and fellas more than yelp anyway.

If you have any other suggestions for that "quintessential New Orleans experience" let me know. Thanks bunches. Rene

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  1. In a word, No, qualified by IMO (and that of many others I know)--and I have been to Anthony's Pier 4 and was definitely underwhelmed, if not very disappointed.

    "Breakfast at Brennan's" was once, might still be, the quintessential New Orleans experience. I wouldn't recommend Brennan's for dinner even if you had a longer time--but certainly not when you have only three and when you've never been to New Orleans. Come back sometime and go to brunch, if you really want to do Brennan's.

    For "the quintessential New Orleans experience," Galatoire's or Commander's Palace (Sunday brunch at Commander's--now that's quintessential), some might say Antoine's (though I'm not a fan). For a contemporary and very delicious and wonderful--I guess folks might quibble over "quintessential"--New Orleans experience, August or Emeril's.

    There are so many wonderful places to eat in New Orleans, and others will weigh in with their recs, that I'd skip Brennan's, esp. for dinner. (Just so you have some context, the last time I enjoyed Brennan's was for brunch, more than 15 years ago. I have been there a number of times since b/c visitors either insisted or I was someone's guest, for brunch and dinner; just can't recommend it.)

    Be happy to post a recipe for Bananas Foster--very easy to do yourself.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nomadchowwoman

      I went to Brennan's for the first time since 1990 the Sunday of the Superbowl for brunch. I had many opps to go there for dinner over the years with my high school class for reunions as one of the guys i graduated with was a Brennan, and I recall the food wasn't all that great back then.
      That being said, we went with a group of around 15 for brunch and had a great time. The grillades and grits were wonderful as were the brandy milk punches. Maybe the booze, the excitement of the city for the Saints made a difference, or maybe it was that I was with friends who I only get to see once a year.
      i would say go for brunch, and elsewhere for dinner

    2. I've only ever had brunch there, but it was about 15 years ago, so I'm not qualified to say what it's like now. It was fantastic.

      The last time I was in N.O, my friend and I made the very good decision to ask one of the maids at our hotel for a recommendation. It was a dive with plastic tablecloths that served the most amazing crab fingers and had a huge oyster bar. I'm sorry I don't remember the name of it, but I think asking a local for good grub is the way to go. I also had a great experience just walking into a hole in the wall place in the Quarter. It was unimpressive from the outside, but once we got inside it had a beautiful open courtyard with a fountain and fantastic etouffee.

      I've never had a bad meal in New Orleans, but I tend to avoid fancy restaurants. (Must remember to write down the names next time!)

      1. Skip it. The food isn't bad, but for the expense, you can do much, much better. And, even with a reservation, you still may be corralled in the bar with mobs of tourists in t-shirts and tennis shoes. I'd suggest Galatoire's or Commander's instead. Or, for a more "neighborhood" feel, Clancy's or Brigtsen's.

        1 Reply
        1. re: BayouTeche

          I don;t think it's fair to call it a "tourist trap" in the classic sense (if there is such a thing); stuff there is OK but it _is_ likley to be more mobbed with tourists than other places...you are dead-on right about that. Still and all, lots of people I know have had whack-o, bang-up, fire-on-all-eight-cylinder meals there and it is still a good place for a party. Clancy's or Brightsen's will be more neighborhood, as you say, but I think you get that same feel at Commander's, Galatoire's etc. I think for the unquantifiable "feel" of eating in new Orleans, the last two are at the top of the list, Antoine's is there too but it is so huge that you cna get lost in the shuffle and not really "see" what is going on. Well, just a thought or two....

        2. I agree with most of the above. Although of the Brennan family restaurants, I prefer Ralph's in the Park for brunch. Commander's and Galatoire's are "quintessential" New Orleans, but I prefer the food at other esteemed places like August, Bayona, Herbsaint (all 3 with James Beard winning chefs), Emeril's, and Lilette. Brett Anderson of the Times Picayune has a handy dining guide
          http://www.nola.com/dining-guide/
          you can't really go wrong with his top 10, except I'm not the biggest Stella! fan.

          1. SKIP IT! I've always felt rushed when eating there for brunch. They like to turn the tables quickly so the want people in and out. The food isn't bad, but there are many better suggestions available on this board. Don't waste your time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rubyslippersnola

              Skip Brennan's. Emeril's is excellent for dinner or lunch. I really enjoy August, but for the "quintessential" NOLA dining experience, go to Galatoire's. Have lunch at Commander's (in the garden room).

            2. Rene, you have been given some excellent advice by my fellow chowhounds!! The majority of diners at Brenan's are tourists -- that ought to tell you something. If you absolutely have to go to Brenan's, why not go for what they are known for, which is breakfast. Even with that said, you can count on spending $100 for a party of two. That's a lot of money for some fancy eggs!! In my humble opinion, there are better places for breakfast or dinner.