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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Truth about Owen Brennan's

When I first started blogging, I can honestly say that I waited with quivering anticipation not only to be asked to do a review of a restaurant, but for the opportunity to rip them a new one as well.  Readers, you have since heard me rank restaurants with no hesitation, give pros and cons while rating food, and show no mercy in commentary on service.  I don't name drop or discuss interaction with managers or servers because they are usually uninformative, uninteresting, and a waste of my time.

6150 Poplar Avenue 
Enter Owen Brennan's: A Memphis staple for Cajun cuisine, I grew up being very aware of their brunches and pricey dinners.  Labeled as one of Memphis' "Premier Eating Destinations" by many publications, I will honestly report that, due to past experiences from years ago, I did nothing short of turning up my nose and guffawing at the idea of spending a dollar in what I considered to be one of the most overrated restaurants in the city.  When Owen Brennan's marketing coordinator reached me via twitter (!/FoodieCallGirl), I was excited to the point of sexual thrill for the opportunity to show them a lesson.  Readers, I am hear to admit with no shame: I. Was. Wrong.

Yes, mark your calendars, because those near and dear to me will tell you that I never utter those words, and why would I, dummy, as I am always right.  So when I questioned the claims of "revamped menu," "better quality food," and "reliable, energetic staff," I can report that I grudgingly went because of two words: MARTINI MENU.  It's no surprise to regular readers that I dabble in enjoying Grandpa's Sauce a time or 20 a week, and the notion of day drinking with work-related purpose was understandingly appealing.  So when I walked in and was greeted by owner Jim Baker and not some ill-mannered manager or bartender, I knew I was in for something.... well.... big.

Big is what I got; Jim greeted me with a massive smile that oozed confidence, leaving a beyotch like me with even more eagerness to aggressively rip the place to shreds.  However, when I was escorted to his "special booth" and handed a menu to look over, I was taken aback.  The menu looked the way a New Orleans-style restaurant should look: lots of jambalaya and anduille sausage, heavy sauces, and french and southern influence in nearly every item.  And since it was the lunch menu, there is an Express Lunch option with promise of 6 to 7 minute wait times for those that are dumb enough to have serious careers and ambitious work ethics.  While waiting on Jim to make it back to my table, I hated admitting to myself that I found the place's nostalgic decor charming.  You truly go back to the original NOLA Mardis Gras days. 

Kickin' it at the Bacchus booth
I told Jim to bring me his "jaw dropper", or his most revered menu item; honestly, I was warming to the guy, liked the restaurant's atmosphere, and just wanted to skip the food and delve into a vodka martini without having to criticize anything less than the best.  With the confidence of a barely-clothed Beckham, Jim Baker ordered nearly half the damn menu for me to taste, which is ballsy, because it leaves me with more things to pick on. duh.  While I waited on my food, Jim filled me in on the history of the restaurant: how he bought the Brennan name, and the Brennan family started the famous Bacchus Parade in New Orleans.  All of the prints on the walls and NOLA themed decor was purchased in New Orleans, with some coming from actual floats from the old Bacchus parades.  Danggit, this guy was hard to hate; he really loves his restaurant, takes pride in its history, and is unwavering in his confidence of his revamped menu.

Here is a breakdown for you:

Fried Green Tomatoes (app): They have a secret method in order to keeps these bad boys crisp and keep the frying on them, as well.  The chive vinaigrette is definitely different, but a welcomed abnormality in this southern classic.

Eggplant Victoria (app): One word: ridonkulous.  In a dish resembling that of the great Commanders Palace in New Orleans, this fried eggplant treat was perfectly cooked and smothered in a creole piquant sauce as well as the house hollandaise, because in NOLA, there ain't no such thing as too much sauce.  This ranks as one of my favorite appetizers on any menu in the city.

Shrimp and Grits (ent): A very nice departure from traditional Memphis-style shrimp and grits. Why? Because they don't feel the need to incorporate barbeque sauce.  Soapbox time: hey, people, we get it... we live in Memphis and we are famous for barbeque, but quit shoving it down our throats.  This shrimp and grits is smothered in a true creole rue and topped with a large helping of anduille sausage.  And not just any anduille, but anduille shipped in from a very exclusive packer in Louisiana.  Trust me when I say that you can taste the difference. 

Catfish Bourdeaux (spec ent):  In combining 2 things southerners do best, catfish and frying, Owen Brennan's managed to kick up the ol' standard with a crawfish cream sauce that is perfection.

Now aside from a few salads, nearly everything on this menu is rich, fattening, and in heaping portions.  This place is not for those watching their caloric intake or have a tendency to clog their arteries.  But much like Galatoires in New Orleans, being good at Cajun cuisine is rarely synonymous with "good for you".

I bet you wondering if I sampled a martini or three while I was there; well, if you are even questioning it than you are nuttier than squirrel crap... and let me tell you, the Big Easy Martini (Hurricane with a martini twist) would bring a tear to dear old Pat O'Brian's eye.  The weekly "Tini Tuesday", with $6 martinis and an opportunity to sit at one of the prettiest bars in Memphis, is reason in and of itself to go to Owen Brennan's.  Now let's see how many of you are really quick today: What's coming up soon? Answer: Fat Tuesday.  What's Owen Brennan's? Answer: a New Orleans-themed restaurant and bar.  What's at Owen Brennan's on Tuesdays (and with more offers on Fat Tuesday)? Answer: Tini damn Tuesday and a rockin' good time.

In short, I stand corrected, and can only plead previous ignorance to what I consider to be great and noteworthy change at Owen Brennan's.



  1. Well written article Steph. If I wasn't in Tampa, enjoying the beautiful sun, I would definitely stop by!!!

  2. As I read and share your blog with all my friends because you crack me and everyone else up I rarely comment but this one I have too! I was dragged there every Sunday after Church for Brunch and frequently during the week because my Family acted like they enjoyed it only because the patriarch liked one thing on the menu. I dreaded it everytime! I do however trust your unique opinion and devilishly honest words I will give it another try.....,.. Thanks again your for your entertaining words!!!! I laugh so so hard everytime I read and I find your words and thoughts soooooo sexy, evil, honest, real in a way noone else could ever duplicate, oh again, sexy sexy sexy!!!!!!!! Keep them coming!!! Can I keep this thing anonymous? Haha who gives a fuck.....

  3. aw, shucks, thanks, ya'll! keep it sleazy n' greasy

  4. I agree they have some pretty good food, the service and the owner are horrible.

  5. 'andouille' and 'roux' but well written and with humor. P.s. try a Sazerac (you will love it)!

  6. Can't wait to try this place but if you're seriously
    writing about New Orleans food in the future it's 'roux' and 'andouille'. Great write up, though. Certainly caught my attention