Ted Brennan Sr. no longer runs the restaurant on Royal Street in the French Quarter that made his last name famous, having lost out in a family drama that saw Brennan’s Restaurant change hands and undergo a complete overhaul in the past year.
But as new owners prepare to reopen Brennan’s next week, Ted Brennan and other members of his immediate family are moving ahead with plans to open a new restaurant of their own three blocks away.
To be called Ted Brennan’s Decatur, it is slated to open within four to five months at 309 Decatur St.
Teddy Brennan Jr., one of the planned restaurant’s proprietors, said it’s intended to revive time-honored Brennan’s Restaurant traditions. The new restaurant will serve a menu of French Creole cuisine overseen by longtime Brennan’s chef Lazone Randolph, he said.
“We’re very excited to get back to giving the experience we provided our guests for so many years,” Teddy Brennan said. “We want this place to honor the legacy our grandfather created at Brennan’s.”
Ted Brennan’s Decatur will be run by Teddy Brennan; his sisters, Bridget Brennan Tyrrell and Alana Brennan Mueller; and their father, Ted Brennan Sr.
The historic restaurant is now owned by Ralph Brennan, a member of the extended Brennan family who previously had no role in the Royal Street business, and his business partner Terry White. They have sunk an estimated $20 million into renovating the building, and their chefs have designed a new menu to blend classic and contemporary Creole flavors. The new owners announced this week that they will reopen the culinary landmark on Nov. 25, serving breakfast and lunch initially, with dinner scheduled to begin Dec. 16.
Founded by Owen Brennan Sr., Brennan’s Restaurant had been in business on Royal Street since 1956. His heirs underwent a fractious split in 1973 that divided the family into two camps — one affiliated with Brennan’s Restaurant and the other with the many other Brennan family-run restaurants that would follow, starting with Commander’s Palace.
Ted Brennan and his daughter Bridget Brennan Tyrrell took on management of the Royal Street restaurant in 2006, reopening nine months after Hurricane Katrina.
But last year, a dispute between family shareholders Owen “Pip” Brennan Jr. and Ted Brennan landed in court. Other shareholders removed Ted Brennan and his daughter from management and gave control to Pip Brennan. That same year, the Royal Street building was sold at a sheriff’s auction. The buyer was a company led by White and Ralph Brennan, who runs numerous other restaurants through his own company.
Initially, Ted Brennan retained the name and other business assets of Brennan’s Restaurant, including the logo, wine collection and recipes, through a firm called Brennan’s Inc. But over the summer, White and Ralph Brennan acquired those assets through a bankruptcy sale.
Teddy Brennan said he and his immediate family have moved on and anticipate a new start at Ted Brennan’s Decatur.
“It’s going to be an interesting time, and we wish them nothing but the best,” he said of the new operators on Royal Street. “We had to re-evaluate where we were, and going to Decatur Street was the right option for us.”
The site of Ted Brennan’s Decatur previously housed a nightclub called the Hookah on its second floor; Teddy Brennan said the restaurant space on its ground floor has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina.
Work is underway to modernize the kitchen and create a main dining room with a large, 50-seat bar on the ground floor and private dining rooms for groups on the second floor.
Ted Brennan’s Decatur won’t have many of the amenities that made the original Brennan’s famous, such as its large courtyard, and it can’t use the established Brennan’s Restaurant name and logo or its “Breakfast at Brennan’s” trademark because those were acquired by Ralph Brennan and White.
But Teddy Brennan said the cuisine and personality of the new restaurant should resonate for fans of the former Brennan’s Restaurant thanks to the people involved, notably its former chef.
Randolph spent his entire career at the Royal Street restaurant, beginning in 1965 as a dishwasher and working his way up through the ranks until he was named executive chef in 2005. Teddy Brennan said he and his family have kept in touch with other former employees from Brennan’s Restaurant and that some would be back for their new venture.
Even a logo for the new restaurant, featuring a gas lamp and “Decatur” written in a familiar script, recalls a design used at the original Brennan’s before it adopted its better-known rooster logo, Teddy Brennan explained.
“We’ll have a lot of similarities” to the former Brennan’s Restaurant, he said. “It’s that experience of Brennan’s that we’re bringing back.”
The restaurant will serve dinner nightly and breakfast on weekends, at least initially.
The planned restaurant’s building is owned by the founders of Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts, a company that operates numerous French Quarter restaurants and bars and that last year purchased and revamped the historic Broussard’s Restaurant. But Teddy Brennan said that company will not be involved in operating Ted Brennan’s Decatur.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.