Post Vaccine Dining Adventure!
This week, Don and I pulled up to Brennan's for a little lunch celebration.
It happened to be my 64th birthday, but the bigger celebration was that we were both vaccinated and having our first Texas dining adventure since the pandemic began.
Long Before the Pandemic
In 2007, I had my first dining adventure at Brennan's Houston.
My dear mom was with us and so were the kids! We were celebrating my 50th.
The atmosphere was festive. I have no idea what we ate that day, but I do recall the fine plate of pralines and strawberries. I was happy to pose in my paper hat and blow out my candle. Wish I could remember my wish.
Lunch in 2021
In March, Don and I were vaccinated! Then came my birthday on April 9! After a year of carryouts and home celebrations, we were ready to take on a little restaurant dining. But it needed to be a decent place that we could trust. I decided on Brennan's.
Before entering Brennan's, I was glad to see valet guys with masks and a hand sanitizer station near the door.
Once inside, I was tempted to take a photo of the hostess, in her sparkly face mask. It sort of amused me. Instead, I just paid her mask a compliment and took a photo of the empty dining room, off to the side.
We were the first to arrive in the courtyard. It felt heavenly to have the trickling fountain and all the space around us. We kept masks on while we asked questions about the menu... Was that overly cautious? I don't know. We're new to this.
I wanted to ask our waiter about protocol. Do we put our masks on every time someone approaches our table? Then I had to stop fretting and remind myself that we are vaccinated and we're outside. It felt good to take the mask off.
Golden Ribbon & 25-Cent Martinis!
You have to love a place that puts a ribbon on your table, if it's your birthday. (well, some hate that sort of thing) But you definitely have to love a place that serves 25-cent martinis at lunch, on Fridays!
It wasn't even 11:30 yet, but how could we pass up the fun? I actually went for the Cosmopolitan. What a silly treat.
Photo of the Times
While the courtyard was empty, we asked our waiter to snap our photo. This image is much more fun than the photo of my Birthday Picnic, last year. The world felt so worrisome, a year ago!
Now when I see this photo, I have to laugh at our pandemic hair. Mine is straggly, as it has been for most of the year. Don has a beard... which came and went throughout the year.
The dead-looking vines on the wall, also seem a little pandemic-like. But that's actually from the big Texas Freeze, this past February.
Sharing the Patio
It was nice having the courtyard to ourselves for a while. Again this dining thing is new to us. We need to ease back into this world.
By the time a few other tables were filled, I was ready to have some more activity out in the courtyard. The atmosphere felt more normal, when we weren't the only diners.
Then, the food arrived! We started with Snapping Turtle Soup, splashed with Lustau Sherry! Thick and creamy!
Don ordered the grilled gulf shrimp with roasted winter vegetables, caramelized lemon and citrus vinaigrette! He was mighty happy! (These meals just don't work as carryouts!)
For me, it was Creole spiced roasted 1/2 chicken. Sweet potato & corn succotash, mushroom & Tasso Marchand De Vin! This photo does not show it off well. It was delish.
Then we settled in for a little coffee and some stories from our server, Travis. We had fun exchanging opinions on favorite Louisiana restaurants. Then Travis gave us a little history about this restaurant, that opened in 1967.
Brennan's in Nola & Houston
We've been to Brennan's in New Orleans and Houston, but I never realized the curious connection between the buildings. The brick building in Houston, was built for the Junior League organization in 1929. Brennan's in the French Quarter, was once the Rilleaux House, built in 1795. Both are old, but one is 134 years older!
The buildings look similar with their rounded windows on the first floor and and ironwork on the second. That's because John Straub designed the Junior League building to look like the Rilleaux House. This was long before the Brennan's family biz began, in the 1940's.
New Location for Brennan's
It was 1956, when Brennan's relocated to the Rilleaux House. About 10 years later, the Brennan Fam began scouting locations in Houston. They were ready to expand with some Texas Creole.
By this time, the Junior League had relocated and the brick building on Smith & Stuart, was vacant. How incredibly odd that must have been, to have spotted a building that was nearly a duplicate of their restaurant in New Orleans. After some renovations and some Nola-style gas lamps, the Houston Brennan's opened in 1967.
After hearing the history, I was curious to peek around inside. A trip to the Ladies Room is usually my excuse. (Oops. Almost forgot my mask.) First off the bathroom was very lovely, especially for a building that's nearly a century old.
It was about 12:30 when I peeked in the bar. The modern space showed no signs of its age. It also showed no signs of the damage that occurred when Brennan's caught fire, during Hurricane Ike in 2008. There were however, signs of our pandemic world at the bar. Hand sanitizer and plexiglass.
I had to pay a quick visit to the large dining room in front. I was curious to see what the pandemic lunch vibe was like, indoors. The staff was all masked and the tables were spaced far apart. All good.
But where were all those jackets? I thought jackets were required in the dining room? Did Brennan's decide to ignore that rule during the pandemic? Wait a minute. Don and Scott weren't wearing jackets in our photos from 2007. I'm confused about rules now.
I obviously didn't learn much from my quick self guided tour. I haven't learned how to wander and casually ask questions, in my mask. I was anxious to get back to the table where I could go mask-less.
And I was also eager to get back for some dessert! Bread pudding! Warm, sweet and nutty, with a wishing candle! I can't tell, but it was something about the pandemic coming to an end.
Off We Go
What a perfect way to ease back to the dining world! Two peaceful and tasty hours in the courtyard and we were off, with a doggy bag.
I nodded to the woman in the sparkly mask, as I reached towards the platter of complimentary pralines. I would have been nosy and asked if she'd ever seated any famous people. (I happen to know there are some Jack Nicholson, Shirley McClain and Billy Joel stories.) But with her mask and my mask, chit chat just seem awkward. I'll save those questions.
We headed out with our sweet loot (and napkins) and waited for our car. We stepped away from the other guests waiting.
Cowboy didn't have his mask on, but he was wearing a jacket. I guess it's hard to demand both.
Cheers for a successful return to the dining world!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.