Begues New Orleans
Welcome to our home, where you can learn the colorful history of the legendary Madame Begue, proprietor of Begue’s Restaurant and the inventor of “the second breakfast” or “brunch.”
Although Begue’s joined forces with its neighbor Tujague’s Restaurant in 1914 and began operating under the Tujague’s name, the stories and the memories live on in these historic buildings across from the French Market on Decatur Street. Discover the history here, then have brunch in the Begue’s room at Tujague’s, the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans.
Begue’s: The Beginning
Ironically, the woman behind one of New Orleans’ most famous Creole restaurants was no Creole at all, but Bavarian-born Elizabeth Kettenring.
Elizabeth, who would become New Orleans’ first celebrity chef, came to New Orleans in 1853 to visit her brother Philip, a butcher at the French Market. As it happened, Philip introduced his sister to his butcher pal Louis Dutrey. Whether it was love at first sight we’ll never know, but there must have been something there for the two married and opened Dutrey’s, a former coffee house at the corner of Decatur and Madison streets. By all accounts Dutrey's did very well serving German food to a hungry crowd who worked at the French Market. Then, in 1875, Dutrey died, leaving Elizabeth to manage the business alone. Five years later, she fell in love for a second time with Frenchman Hypolite Begue, a former butcher many years her junior. Legend has it that Begue loved the cooking at Dutrey's so much he quit to tend bar there. Romance followed.
As the story goes, Dutrey's became Begue's, and Hypolite gets the credit for convincing his new wife to add French recipes to the menu. The new formula worked because, before long, butchers and dockhands weren’t the only ones brunching at Begue’s. By 1884, the year of the big Cotton Centennial in New Orleans, Begue’s was the place to eat and be seen. Travel writers and celebrities here for the World’s Fair discovered the restaurant and New Orleans society took over the tables once reserved for blue collar workers alone.
A Typical Meal at Begue’s
Madame Begue served only one meal a day – a "second breakfast" – at 11:00 a.m. This was to accommodate the hungry men who had been working in the Quarter and on the docks since dawn. Today, Madame Begue is credited with inventing “brunch.”
A meal at Begue's began with a heavy soup; a second course featuring shrimp or crawfish; a third with snapper, trout, or flounder; and a fourth with quail in wine sauce; followed by a fresh green salad, and dessert with steaming cup of Café Brûlot.
When Elizabeth passed away in 1906, Begue's closed its doors for a time. Then Hypolite Begue reopened the restaurant after marrying a second Madame Begue, a widow who had worked for Elizabeth and was privy to all her culinary secrets. In 1914, the new owner of Tujague's Restaurant a couple of doors down (which had been opened by still another French Market butcher in 1856), purchased Madame Begue's and the building along with a partner, another Begue’s employee. Today, you can still enjoy brunch at Tujague's in the very rooms where “the second breakfast” was first invented.
Madame Begue's Jambalaya of Rice and Shrimps Recipe
(as interpreted by New Orleans Cultural Ambassador Poppy Tooker)
Boil two dozen large shrimps; when cold, peel and set aside. Fry in hot lard a chopped onion and a cup of rice washed in cold water. Let the onion and rice fry well, add the shrimps, stirring constantly. When browned, add enough water to cover the whole. Season with salt and pepper, a bay leaf, thyme and chopped parsley. Let boil slowly, and add water until the rice is well cooked. When done let it dry and serve hot.