The recent reopening of Brennan's on Royal Street got me to thinking about the man behind the restaurant name — Owen Edward Brennan, patriarch of a legendary food family. He was born April 5, 1910, in the Irish Channel and had five siblings — Adelaide, John, Ella, Dick and Dottie — several of whom went on to their own fame in the restaurant business.
According to Brennan's New Orleans Cookbook, published in 1994, Owen bought the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street in 1943 and turned it into a French Quarter hotspot. In 1946, he leased the Vieux Carre Restaurant across the street.
The gregarious Owen was described as a "one-man Chamber of Commerce" who had contacts in Hollywood and at all the major newspapers and magazines.
The food of chef Paul Blange and breakfast at Brennan's became known nationwide.
A dispute with his landlord led Owen Brennan to relocate the restaurant to Royal Street, where he leased the building that had housed the Patio Royal. Brennan's opened in early 1956, but Owen didn't live to see it happen. He died in his sleep on Nov. 4, 1955, just hours after enjoying a dinner hosted by an exclusive wine society to which he belonged.
"His death — at 45 and at the very height of his almost magical success — is a serious loss for the community in general," remarked an editorial in the New Orleans Item.
Despite his death, the restaurant opened, with his sister Ella supervising the kitchen. Owen's sons, Pip, Jimmy and Ted, also were involved in operating the restaurant. We'll refer you to newspapers and court documents for more on the family saga since then, but count us among those thankful that the bright pink building on Royal Street is open for business once again.