Let’s Do Brunch

If everybody’s working for the weekend, then brunch is our reward. The scene at New Orleans’ restaurants suggests that brunch is a meal best served with festive libations and consumed between peals of laughter. 

It was 1955 when the Brennan family opened Brennan’s Restaurant, a temple of French-Creole cuisine on Royal Street in the French Quarter. When Frances Parkinson Keyes’s bestselling book, “Dinner at Antoine’s,” was generating business for the joint around the corner, the Brennans conceived the idea of ‘Breakfast at Brennan’s,’ ultimately leading the restaurant to serve more wine at breakfast than dinner. That was 75 years ago, and the tradition continues under Executive ef Ryan Hacker. Favorite selections include Omelette a la Creole with shrimp, Manchego gremolata and Creole sauce, Gulf Fish Amandine, Classic Steak Diane and Bananas Foster flambeé.

Just a short walk away Tujague’s, the city’s second oldest restaurant continues to serve up traditional New Orleans cuisine with robust flavors. Brunch is offered Friday-Sunday. Standouts include charbroiled oysters, hot honey chicken biscuit, shrimp and grits, Parmesan stone ground grits with andouille, roasted peppers, jumbo head-on shrimp, and New Orleans-style BBQ sauce. Beverage specials include $18 bottomless mimosas, $4 Guilhem Rosé, $4 Tujague’s private label sparkling, $5 Grey Goose or New Amsterdam martinis.

After many years of working restaurant kitchens Chefs Amarys and Jordan Herndon opened Palm & Pine in 2019 as a laid-back destination for fine dining in the French Quarter. The Sunday brunch menu changes constantly, but mainstays include Hot Sausage Carimanolas, Tuna Tostadas, and Texas Wagyu and Eggs. Kimberly Patton-Bragg oversees the action at the bar, so the cocktails are top notch too. 

Everything about Saint John on lower Decatur Street stands out—the art, the stained glass, and a menu that explores 18th  century Creole cuisine with complex dishes one might have found on Maw Maw’s Sunday dinner table. Saturday and Sunday brunch brings flights of fruit juices for pairing with bubbly for customized Mimosas. Standouts include crispy Oysters Sardou, Creole Eggs in Purgatory—eggs baked in a spicy Creole sauce with grilled andouille sausage, and Lost Bread made with a brandy milk punch custard. 

Warm, inviting, and reminiscent of Provence, The Elysian Bar at the Hotel Peter & Paul in the Marigny offers brunch every Saturday and Sunday. Chef Jonathan Klaskala’s menu is limited but lovely. Look for buttermilk biscuits served with cultured butter, poached farm eggs and stone-ground grits, Roasted Gulf Shrimp with Calabrian Chili Butter, and Bottarga Breadcrumbs. Everything pairs well with coffee drinks featuring Congregation Coffee.

With $15 bottomless Mimosas, Toups’ Meatery, Chef Isaac Toups’ Mid-City flagship, is a brunch hotspot on Saturdays and Sundays. Favorites include Louisiana shrimp fried rice made with crab fat and ham, coffee cake with caramel, coffee sauce, and candied bacon, and seared foie gras with buttermilk sourdough biscuits, Red Eye gravy, and crispy onions.

A lush hanging garden complete with fragrant wisteria vines and deep banquet seating separates the intimate outdoor dining space at Copper Vine from the bustle of Poydras Street. There are thirty wines on tap at the historic bar and Chef Amy Mehrten’s Saturday and Sunday brunch brings bottomless Mimosas for $25 per person to pair with standouts like Cornflake-Fried Chicken and Waffles with rosemary gravy, Apple Fritter French Toast made with rich Saint-Andre cheese, and Jumbo Lump Crab Benny made with a herb cheddar biscuit, whipped crab fat, and a tomato-sherry Hollandaise. 

As bright and showy as its name implies, The Peacock Room is a study in maximalism. Lush foliage, vivid colors and patterns, and rich textures co-mingle under a gold coffered ceiling to create a sexy vibe. Executive Chef Chris Lusk rolled out an expanded Saturday and Sunday brunch menu with the start of the new year. The menu features many specialty dishes and cocktails that are not available during the week. The Peacock Tower features deviled eggs, lobster toast, salt and pepper shrimp with vinegar, and pimento cheese and crostini. The C&A Benedict starts with a layer of crab-avocado toast topped with a poached egg and drizzled over with gochujang. Jordan Deis heads up the bar program and keeps things interesting with creations like High Tea Punch for two, a shareable bourbon punch that changes weekly and is served in a lovely tea set that seems just right in this luxe, slightly kooky (in the best way), environment.

The recently opened Birdy’s Behind the Bower serves brunch every Saturday and Sunday. Favorites include Birdy’s boards, such as the brunch board—donut, granola, slab bacon, hot coppa, bubble waffle, fruit, seasonal jam, mini cookies, mini pancakes, house syrup, triple cream cheese, and soft-boiled eggs, a pastry board loaded with goodies, and a biscuit board. 

If people watching and a long hang with friends on a beautiful day is your jam, hustle over to Gris Gris, where brunch is served Friday-Sunday. Chef Eric Cook opened his hot spot restaurant in the triangular-shaped building at Magazine and Felicity in 2018. It’s a sweet spot for sure, but the real estate came with the rare, tantalizing bonus of covered outdoor seating downstairs as well as up on the deep, graceful, climate-controlled second floor balcony, which affords views of the most interesting block in the Lower Garden District. For brunch cocktails are available individually and by the carafe to accompany goodness like fried chicken thighs and scrambled eggs, cream biscuits and gravy, Go with the Flo—crispy oysters, creamed spinach, fried eggs and Hollandaise, and Blueberry Bourbon Pain Perdu.

It was in the early 1970s while visiting England that Dick Brennan Sr. was struck with the idea to invite a lively jazz trio to play for the post-church crowd that visited then fledgling Commander’s Palace.

Restaurateur Ti Adelaide Martin remembers the day.

“He made a transatlantic call—a big deal in those days— to mom (Ella Brennan),” Martin said. “I think the key was how they implemented it— without a stage but with the band wandering about. They recruited us kids to hand out flyers in the Quarter about the first jazz brunch. It was an instant success.”

In bringing together the New Orleans trifecta—booze, food and music—the Brennan family created a new genre in New Orleans dining where it was perfectly acceptable to party hardy on Sunday morning a la Saturday night then return home for a nap. The winning formula has been replicated by many and evolved by others as the Commander’s Palace original continues to thrive on Saturday and Sunday mornings. 

Today, the thrill of brunch continues at Commander’s Palace under the guidance of Chef Meg Bickford. Her exuberance is catching, and one could drool as she contemplates favorite dishes. 

“The fan favorite for sure is the Eggs Cochon de Lait,” Bickford said. “It’s Crystal hot sauce-and-garlic-rubbed-18-hour smoked pork that’s gently pulled over hot buttermilk biscuits, with a caramelized onion and mushroom fricassee, topped with two soft poached eggs and Hollandaise studded with smoked tasso. If that doesn’t make your mouth water, I don’t know what will!”

“Then there’s the Land, Sea, and Air Tartine: It’s house-made buttery brioche toast, salty, smokey, whiskey drenched salmon, egg yolk, bacon, cheese and, need I say more? This dish is such a crave-able and satisfying brunch dish!”

With an elegant interior and sidewalk seating wrapping the corner of Magazine and General Pershing streets, Le Petite Grocery affords plenty of people watching on a bustling block with interesting shops. Sunday brunch standouts—the Hot Iron Buttermilk Waffle, Country Fried Pork Loin with buttermilk biscuits & gravy, and Gulf Shrimp & Grits with charred corn, shitake mushrooms and tasso. From the bar, the Big Red Hammer is a meal in itself: House-made Bloody Mary mix, Tito’s vodka, poached shrimp, blue crab, and house-pickled vegetables. This drink comes with a fork.

Further Uptown, Chef Sophina Uong and husband/partner William Greenwell turned a ho-hum former corner store into a tropical roadhouse before opening in late July 2021. Mister Mao has become a go-to spot for “inauthentic” global cuisine from Uong and killer craft cocktails from Greenwell. Sunday brunch recently launched with an array of creative options, which will change frequently. Standout signature items include Kashmiri Hot Chicken Benedict, jelly doughnuts with orange flower water and cardamom sugar, Chicken Tinga Chilaquiles, and Thai Shrimp Cake with eggs, mustard greens, curry, and hot ass fish sauce vinaigrette. There is always a substantial selection of gluten-free offerings. Signature cocktails include the Hellfire Mary – Tabasco vodka, tomato juice, and sumac pickle. 

If you are in the mood for a Sunday drive, head to Madisonville. Chef Michael Gottlieb brought world class cuisine to the small historic town when he opened Tchefuncte’s in 2020 following a long and distinguished career that includes a 2016 James Beard Award for Creative Excellence. Overlooking its gorgeous namesake river, Tchefuncte’s has both indoor and outdoor seating for Sunday brunch. Menu highlights include Lobster Sardou, Duck Confit Popovers, Soft Shell Crab Benedict, Crab Cake Benedict, and anything involving the house-cured ham. All the restaurant’s breads —including the English muffins—are made in-house and the chef, enthusiastic for wild ingredients, incorporates the bounty from his Northshore forages into his menu as much as possible. One never knows what surprises will appear. 

There are far worse—and few finer—ways to usher in a new week.

Birdy’s Behind the Bower, 1320 Magazine St., 504-302-2992, birdysnola.com

Brennan’s, 417 Royal St., 504-525-9711, brennansneworleans.com

Commander’s Palace, 1403 Washington Ave, 504-899-8221, commanderspalace.com

Copper Vine, 1001 Poydras St., 504-208-9535, coppervine.com

Gris Gris, 1800 Magazine St., 504-272-0241, grisgrisnola.com

Le Petite Grocery, 4238 Magazine St., 504-891-3377, lepetitegrocery.com

Mister Mao, 4501 Tchoupitoulas St., (entrance on Jena St.), 504-345-2056, mistermaonola.com.

Palm & Pine, 308 N Rampart St., 504-814-6200, palmandpinenola.com

Peacock Room (in the Hotel Fontenot), 501 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-324-3073, peacockroomnola.com

Saint John, 1117 Decatur St., 504-581-8120, saintjohnnola.com

The Elysian Bar, 2317 Burgundy St., 504-356-6769, theelysianbar.com

Tchefuncte’s, 407 St. Tammany St., Madisonville, 985-323-4800, tchefunctes.com

Toups’ Meatery, 845 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-252-4999, toupsmeatery.com

Tujague’s, 429 Decatur St., 504-525-8676, tujaguesrestaurant.com 

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