When Brennan's burned to the ground in the chaos of Hurricane Ike in September 2008, owner Alex Brennan-Martin wasn't even sure if the restaurant could be salvaged at all. Before the remains of the structure were assessed, it looked like he'd have to rebuild the old girl from scratch.
Luckily, that's not how it worked out at all, and less than a year later, Brennan-Martin and then-mayor Bill White held a press conference to announce that Brennan's would be reopening in the old building. All was not lost. A stunning 80 percent of the original Brennan's structure -- a historic building designed by famous Houston architect John Staub in 1930 -- was restored.
It's this hard work that's being recognized by the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance when it presents Alex Brennan-Martin with the 2011 Good Brick Awards on February 4. Madeleine Hamm, chair of the Good Brick Awards jury, explained: "We wanted to recognize Brennan's not just for preserving a Houston landmark, but for preserving a Houston tradition as well."
After taking a walk-through of the new space back in February 2010, I can see why the GHPA has recognized Brennan's for this year's award. From the outside, the building looks virtually the same as it always has. But inside, it's even more of a jewel box than ever.
Each room in Brennan's is wholly different, from the taupe-and-chocolate-hued John Staub room that's anchored by a warm fireplace to the clean lines of the sun-drenched Solarium upstairs, from the modern lodge feel of the Courtyard Bar to the buttery chairs that envelop you in the main dining room. And although the courtyard looks different, it's for the better: windows were unbricked during the rebuilding process, allowing more light into the building and allowing for a better view of the courtyard itself.
The GHPA has awarded Good Bricks since 1978 for excellence in historic preservation, and Brennan's is certainly a worthy recipient. Need more proof? Check out our slideshow from its reopening and see for yourself.