There are a few New Orleans institutions that have been around for every stage of my life thus far. Snoball stands such as Hansen’s and Plum Street remind me of swimming lessons and summer camp, Bud’s Broiler takes me back to after school burgers and milkshakes, and Kyoto was always the destination for weekend lunches with the girls in high school. But as time goes by and I reflect on all the special restaurants I grew up going to, there’s one place that remains front and center in both childhood and adolescent memories. The one and only Camellia Grill.
A scenic streetcar ride down the oak lined Avenue will drop you directly in front of the white columned diner, a tourist and local favorite since 1946. Known for dishing out cheeseburgers, tremendous omelets, sweet battered onion rings, freezes (a milkshake/Icee hybrid) and Southern-style pecan pie a la mode quicker than you can say “Who Dat!,” the Grill continues to earn its long-standing praise. There’s no jukebox, or music for that matter, but Camellia Grill doesn’t need it. The incredibly talented and hilarious guys cooking and serving behind the counter are all the entertainment you’ll need. Leave your frown at the door, prepare to make friends with the people sitting next to you, and don’t be surprised if you’re greeted with a fist… to pound, of course!
I always get a Chocolate Freeze and a cheeseburger or Judge’s Chicken sandwich with fries. Sometimes, however, breakfast is the only thing that will suffice, and the Grill does a fine job of frying up eggs any way you like ‘em, and serving them alongside some thick bacon and creamy, buttery grits. That bores you? That’s fine! Just ask for the Chef’s Special Omelet that boasts ham, bacon, onion, Swiss and American cheese, and french fries, all tucked into fluffy eggs and topped with house made chili. GET ON IT.
The best thing about Camellia Grill is that whether you’ve been once or over a hundred times (like me), each time the experience is always new and fun. You never know who you’ll run into and there’s always a new joke being told or song being sung. Lately, popular entertainment revolves around our Superbowl Saints, so you may be asked to join a “Who Dat!” chant or two. Whatever the request, make sure you abide, because we all know that food mixed with friends, laughs, and Who Dats, always tastes better.