OK, I admit that title might be a little overdone but the age-old Napoleon House in the New Orleans French Quarter run for 100 years by the Impastato family is now in the hands of Ralph Brennan who has built a modest empire of excellent restaurants in and around New Orleans.
Brennan’s Buys Napoleon House Causing a Rupture in the Fabric of New Orleans French Quarter
Here is the concern that immediately came to mind when I read the news in The New Orleans Advocate last week: will he keep this famous place like it is or will he change it?
What I and the people who love it, love about the Napoleon House is that it oozes history and character. The walls are stained and peeling paint, in the summer they open the big french doors onto St. Louis street and the cool patio in the back has a huge fan that keeps the air fresh.
Also, the food is great, just typical Creole New Orleans fare with red beans and rice, gumbo, poboys and, of course, the great refreshing drink the Pimm’s Cup, Napoleon House’s signature drink.
And the prices, well, just cannot be beat. You get a lot of food that’s good and, by anyone’s standards, cheap. The waiters dress in white shirt and bow tie and classical music plays continually on the stereo system. I would call this quintessential New Orleans.
OK, so what concerns me about a Brennan taking over? Well, I don’t know of any Brennan restaurant that has inexpensive food. I mean their food is great but heck, c’mon, it aint’ cheap. They are also known for their excellent service, something at which Napoleon House already excels.
And now Brennan has hired his own chef to “update” the menu. Really? If there is one place in New Orleans that does not need an update on the menu is Napoleon House. But Brennan says he’s not going to mess with what makes this famous, quirky, magnificent hole-in-the-wall restaurant unique. We’ll see.
So my question is, will he keep the walls the way they are with their timeless multicolored, natural patina or will he feel he needs to paint them? With the new chef and the new menu will he keep the prices the same to make it affordable to all comers?
Will he open the big doors in the summer so you can sit there with your Pimm’s cup and enjoy the scenery of the the tourists and quarter mavens as they walk by?
Another thing, every time I went to Napoleon House the owner, Mr. Impastato, was always there greeting guests and just being downright friendly. Will Mr. Brennan be present to do the same?
Brennan just recently completed are total revamp and wonderful remodeling of the famous Brennan’s on Royal Street after having wrested the falling down and failing restaurant from other members of his extended family. He’s been able to return that restaurant to its former glory.
But with the Napoleon House there is really no former glory it needs to be returned to because it is perfect like it is. Anyone who is a fan of this place, and this is my favorite place to go in New Orleans, knows that its uniqueness lies in the fact that it ain’t fancy. It just feels so good to be there among the history, the music, the great food and good people that have run it for a century.
It’s authentic, a rare thing to find in our culture of digital goings-on and fast pace. It’s really a world apart and that’s what people love about it. Let’s just hope that Mr. Brennan does not ruin what makes this historic restaurant-bar in the New Orleans French Quarter so special.