Highly regarded for its popular breakfast and the invention of bananas Foster, the historic Creole restaurant Brennan’s was founded in 1946 on Bourbon Street. In 1955, it relocated to Royal Street, where it remains to this day in the iconic pink building.

During renovations of Brennan’s in 2014, it was discovered that 10 turtles had been living in Brennan’s courtyard. Rather than putting the turtles out, they were adopted as part of the restaurant family.

Throughout the renovation, the small creatures were temporarily rehomed with Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group executive chef Haley Bitterman, who looked after them in her own backyard. When the renovation was completed in 2015, they were returned to their rightful place in the courtyard’s fountain pool—but it was done in New Orleans fashion with a street parade, of course.  

Brennan’s restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Photos courtesy of Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group.

During the Annual Krewe of Turtles Parade, also known as the “Slowest Second Line on Earth,” the turtles are paraded down Chartres Street, behind St. Louis Cathedral, up Royal Street, and into Brennan’s courtyard. During the procession each year, the turtles are given their own customized, turtle-size “floats,” or decorated wagons, depicting each respective turtle’s namesake.

Affectionately referred to as “The Muthas and the Othas,” The turtles were named by Brennan’s former executive chef Slade Rushing. First, to honor the five mother sauces of classic French cuisine, Slade named five of the turtles Béchamel, Hollandaise, Espagnole, Tomate, and Velouté. Then, to honor the five essential sauces of a New Orleans menu, he named the remaining turtles Rémoulade, Ravigote, Bordelaise, Mignonette, and Cocktail.

This year, the Krewe of Turtles Parade will take place on Saturday, May 11, beginning at 11 a.m. and ending at 1 p.m. in Brennan’s courtyard. The final procession will lead the turtles down a green carpet, concluded with a blessing from Monsignor Nalty. Then, Judge Lemmon will grant a formal pardoning of the turtles, who live at a restaurant known for its turtle soup. Hors d’oeuvres and cotton candy will keep the celebration going, and special green drinks will be available for purchase.

For more information on Brennan’s and its turtles, visit brennansneworleans.com.

Purchase your copy of A Topsy-Turvy History of New Orleans & Ten Tiny Turtles.

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