Diary For Thursday, 06/07/2018: The Grille.My first three eating sessions at The Grille revealed a menu familiar to anyone my age. It’s essentially what we found when we went to the Camellia Grill–which itself is a variation of the basic American diner. In other words, overstuffed sandwiches, breakfasts with omelettes at the center, and–most important–excellent hamburgers. These are six-ounce jobs with ground beef of exactly the right thickness, made crusty all around and on the top and bottom. When I took a gander at it, I couldn’t imagine eating the entire thing. But I did, and here it was, with the crustiness and the juiciness rarely found in hamburgers these days.
And now, the more I think about it, the more I believe that this is the best hamburger I’ve had in a very long time. Certainly, it’s better than post-previous Camellia Grill burgers. But even when I put this one against the old Camellia Grill memories, I find that this new one is a winner. I can hardly wait until the next Grille burger. Which is not a sentiment I feel often when it comes to hamburgers.
Looking at the rest of the package, we find French fries, hash browns, and a few other possible side dishes. Of them the fries are the best, served immediately from the fryer and so hot that you’d better wait a minute before stuffing the first handful down your throat. These fries are not hand-cut (neither are the hash browns), but I don’t know how they could keep up with the demand if they stuck only with hand-cut.
The meal at which this miraculous hamburger appeared was the day before I ran into three of the owners, found standing in front of the Trader Joe’s next door. One of these was my fellow WWL Radio talk show host and former Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. Hicham Khodr–who also owns the the Gumbo Shop and the real estate under NOLA–was also here. They were a bit surprised when I told them how I felt about the hamburger. But then, I was pretty surprised by my saying this, myself).
Other Opinions. My wife Mary Ann is NOMenu’s hamburger expert. She agrees with my announcement. She also likes the space taken up by The Grille, which surprised me. She doesn’t usually go for utilitarian eateries. But this one is much more comfortable than it looks at first glance.
This leaves one more consideration in the “Is This The Reborn Camellia Grille?” In its heyday, the Camellia Grill was dominate by Harry Tervalon, the best-loved waiter in the history of New Orleans dining. The waiters now found at the counter don’t have the same style as Harry did–but how could one expect that?
I see myself coming here pretty often in the coming months, as I try to puzzle my way through the psychological matters in this new icon. Some of the evidence is obvious. The Grille doesn’t cook the fluffy omelettes of the old days. There’s much more variety inside these new pillows of eggs. On the other hand, even when the Camellia Grill was peaking, I thought the soufflee-like omelettes were too dry for my tastes. The new ones are also on the dry side, but contain more other ingredients.
I would also say that the new sandwiches on the wide-ranging menu are not uniformly created. Either too much filling or not enough, and that the menu in general has about twice as many elements than one can keep straight in the mind.
But the singular achievement of making such a fine hamburger stands tall. I wonder whether I’ll still by giving these enthusiastic accolades a year from now. Or whether The Grille will be better still as it grows and attaches more customers to its buns. I wonder whether it will become a late-night phenomenon. It would be great to have The Grille as a 24-hour operation. Of course, that’s easy for me to say, and much harder to staff.
The Grille. Metairie: 504-304-3304.