Brennan’s relaunches with an updated menu, more craft beer and happier racing turtles
By Andrew Dubbins
Marina del Rey’s most visible roadside pub re-opened Dec. 19 after nine months of renovations. It has a new look, a new menu and a new beer list — but what’s important is that Brennan’s is pretty much still Brennan’s.
The interior (remodeled by Ricki Kline Design + Build, who also did Seven Grand and The Varnish in downtown L.A.) looks cleaner and brighter now, with white beams, expanded seating, new beer taps, marble bar tops and a fireplace that had been hiding behind drywall for decades. The stage is gone, but for entertainment you can shoot pool, play cornhole or grab a board game.
“The best compliment I’ve received so far is ‘This feels like Brennan’s,’” says general manager Gerry McCarney, a down-to-earth industry veteran who made a jovial host for the big crowd of old-timers and newcomers alike on Brennan’s crowded re-opening night.
Brennan’s biggest asset is its remodeled outdoor patio. Once a dimly-lit asphalt lot with a few dingy tables, the patio now has green turtle-striped seating, a large wood trellis, heat lamps, two full-grown olive trees for shade, and tall concrete steps that double as bleachers for the turtle races.
Yes, turtle races. A tradition since the pub opened in 1972, turtles placed in the center of a large circular play area race slow and steady toward the perimeter, the first to make it declared the winner. Some are pets that people bring to the bar; others live here.
For the resident green racers, life has never been better. They’ve moved out of the turtle tanks and into a veritable sanctuary with even more space for swimming and now big windows for sunning themselves, which makes for more colorful shells.
“Their shells were dark,” says McCarney of how the new owners found the turtles, “but they’re getting brighter now.”
Instead of each Thursday, the turtles compete every third Thursday of the month “because it’s better for their health,” explains McCarney.
Betting is not allowed, but you can wager in exchange for tickets in a post-race raffle, with proceeds benefiting a different charity each time. On reopening night, the money went to the California Wildlife Relief and Recover Fund of the United Way.
The nicer turtle digs and fundraising for wildlife makes sense because new owners the Artisanal Brewers Collective is controlled by Golden Road Brewery co-founder Tony Yanow, a vegan who supports environmental causes.
ABC has been snatching up and rehabbing bars throughout Los Angeles to reboot them with vegan food options and, most of all, craft beers.
Brennan’s new tap list consists of 16 rotating craft beers, including El Segundo Brewing Co.’s Citra Pale Ale, Modern Times’ City of the Sun IPA and The Bruery’s popular Autumn Maple.
In homage to Brennan’s Irish pub heritage, you’ll find perched above the beer taps a wide selection of Irish whiskeys, including The Knot, Red Breast Pot and Hooligans. For a tasty twist on the whiskey sour, I recommend trying “On the Lash,” which contains Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey, St. Germain and cucumber.
Culinary Director Trevor Faris spruced up the bar menu with beachier fare including a shrimp cocktail, shrimp roll, smoked oysters and steamed clams in a white wine and fennel broth. Pizza options include the yummy thin-crust White Mushroom, topped with fresh cream, roasted mushrooms, fontina, pecorino
Pizzas can be ordered either vegan or non-vegan. But vegan, mind you, goes down a little smoother when a bunch of cute turtles are waddling around.
Turtle races return at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18.