Bananas Foster Was Invented At This Famous New Orleans Restaurant

If you've ever tripped around the Big Easy — aka New Orleans — then you know that this lively, culture-steeped city is chock full of good eats. From hearty red beans and rice to rich shrimp and okra gumbo to loaded po'boy sandwiches, many of NOLA's Cajun- and Creole-inflected dishes have attained legacy status. And of course, no visit to New Orleans would be complete without sinking a spoon into the decadent local dessert known as bananas Foster.

A fairly simple and yet show-stopping dish of quartered bananas that are gently simmered in rich butter-and-brown-sugar caramel, bananas Foster is a fun dinner party dessert. The last step of this dish? Adding some rum to the pan of fruit and lighting it aflame with a match. After the fire — and the applause — has died down, the bananas are served with cool vanilla ice cream (via Bon Appétit). The classic dish might seem as old as time, but in fact dates back to 1951 New Orleans.

A dessert from the heart of the French Quarter

In 1946, New Orleans native Owen Brennan opened a French Quarter restaurant named Vieux Carré. It was located right across from historic Bourbon Street bar, The Old Absinthe House (via Brennan's), which Brennan had acquired a few years earlier in 1943 (via The Daily Beast). The Creole-inflected restaurant was a hit, outgrowing its original location by 1956. The operation soon moved into an impressive circa-1795 former bank building, and acquired a new name: Brennan's (via New Orleans Historical). In between, sometime in the early '50s, a VIP visitor to the restaurant — New Orleans Crime Commission chairman Richard Foster — inspired a new dessert that would go on to stand the test of time.

According to NPR, at the time of Foster's visit, Brennan's sister Ella managed the restaurant, and was charged last-minute with creating a new dessert in the chairman's honor. Improvising quickly, she grabbed a bunch of bananas — which tended to hang around the kitchen due to the siblings' brother John running a produce business at the time — sautéed them, then flambéed them in a nod to a flaming baked Alaska served at rival restaurant Antoine's. A hit at dinner that night, bananas Foster went on to become extremely popular when it was offered at Brennan's boozy breakfasts. It still remains the restaurant's best-known dish.