In 1910 on this date, one of the most important New Orleans restaurateurs of all time was born. Thirty-six years later, Owen Edward Brennan
founded Brennan's. He was later joined in the business by his siblings Adelaide, John, Ella, Dick, and Dottie, and then by his sons Pip, Ted, and Jimmy Brennan. What came out of that combination was a style of grand dining that dominated the high end of the scale for decades. In its evolved form, it still does.
Owen E. Brennan's first business was the Absinthe House, which he opened in 1943. He was a congenial host, and the place became a celebrated hangout. A running joke was that people would go to the Absinthe House to complain about Arnaud's. Owen duly reported this to his friend Count Arnaud Cazenave. Count Arnaud came back with a fateful challenge: "If you think you can do it better, why don't you open a restaurant yourself? No Irishman can serve French food!"
Owen leased the Vieux Carre Restaurant (across the street from both the Absinthe House and Arnaud's) and opened Owen Brennan's French & Creole Restaurant. Brennan's was a success from the outset. Its freewheeling style--calling the food French cooking, but serving whatever sounded good to the customers--changed the way first-class dining rooms operated. It did so well that the landlord insisted on a piece of the business when the lease came up for renewal. Owen told him to stick it, and found a new location on Royal Street.
A few months before the new Brennan's was to open, Owen attended a dinner of La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a gourmet society of which he was a member, at Antoine's. He ate and drank well. He died in his sleep that night. He was only 45. He left a legacy of hospitality that lives on in all the Brennan restaurants, and those owned by people who worked in them. I wish I had met him.
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Owen E Brennan, the founder of the Brennan family restaurant business.[/caption]