In addition to a potent milk punch and the country’s preeminent bananas Foster, the team at Brennan’s—the pink-and-green-clad culinary grande dame on Royal Street in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter—makes a standout turtle soup. Paddling around in the courtyard fountain, though, are ten red-eared sliders guaranteed never to see the inside of a stew pot. Not only because they’re the wrong kind (Brennan’s chefs use snappers), but also because these turtles are family.
When Ralph Brennan purchased the aging restaurant from his cousins in 2013 and began a top-to-bottom renovation, the turtles decamped from their decades-long home to temporary lodging in the backyard of chef Haley Bittermann. As the restaurant prepared to reopen in late 2014, Brennan and company decided that “the mothas and the othas,” as the turtles are known—they’re named for the mother sauces of French cuisine and five other classic Crescent City sauces—needed a proper reintroduction. In New Orleans, what else could “proper” mean than a parade?
Brennan’s employees spent months designing and building the first Krewe of Turtles floats in 2015. Led by bagpipers and a police escort, Hollandaise, Béchamel, Espagnole, and the rest made their way through the French Quarter, ending at the restaurant. You can join the fourth-annual parade on May 12, and stick around for the turtles’ official pardoning as well as complimentary grasshoppers and dessert in the courtyard. Can’t make it? Follow @brennansturtles on Twitter instead.