Eat Your Breakfast! An Old Stalwart Is Still That
Mary Ann Fitzmorris August 26, 2019 05:00 Breakfast
Russel’s Marina Grill has been around since 1985. I know this because the day I was there was the first Saints preseason game and the uniform jerseys said Russell’s with an 85 on back. I also learned from that one detail what kind of place this is. Extremely local, but I already knew that. It is a diner/restaurant with a sizable outdoor patio that has been packing them in at its pink marina location since they first opened for business.
Walking in the door brings you straight to a counter featuring a glass case. Inside are homemade pies standing almost 8 inches high with meringue. I expected to feel a retro vibe, a blast from the past, but this place was anything but. Yes, there is a kitschy yesteryear feeling if you look in a certain direction, but the smallish dining room crammed with tables is a bright and cheery light teal blue that smacks of its nearness to the lake.
The parking lot is full here, and I suspect that it stays that way. I thought the food might be tired, but it wasn’t. This institution had all the classics that put them on the culinary map, but a menu that stays current and on-trend, like sage grit cakes, sweet potato beignets, and of course, avocado toast. That’s not to say the place is trendy. Those dishes are anomalies, but they are here.
There is a shorter-than-usual Benedict menu, but it is interesting. A longer-than-usual, pancake and waffle menu, and yes, there is fried chicken with a waffle. And alligator sausage to give this menu a sense of place.
My favorite thing about it all is the hash browns, which are not true hash browns in the sense that I “require.” I have extraordinary standards for hash browns because I make the best, and I’m not even ashamed to boast that. I have always been nuts about this breakfast dish and felt that there must be a better way than the frozen shreds that are then mashed into a slab of brown. These are still preferable to what passes for hash browns now, which are cubed and fried potatoes. Here, they are more like Lyonnaise potatoes, with the onion caramelized and pan-seared. Had these not been cold, they would have been great. Still, points for the lack of boring fried cubes.
Unless there is something really exciting, corned beef hash or Huevos Rancheros on the menu, I tend to be a purist. Plus, I just like to see the way the “standard” is presented at restaurants that serve breakfast. I’m interested in the quality of the bacon, the quality and texture of the grits, and overall appeal of the presentation. Also pancakes.
Very few places go through the trouble of dusting pancakes with powdered sugar and garnishing them with a few berries and a dollop of whipped cream. Most just sort of hurl them onto a plate, which is how I would describe the treatment of pancakes at Russell’s. A pity, because the taste was fine.
The bacon was perfectly cooked, or at least like I prefer, which is sort of a jerky. But it can’t be this stiff unless the bacon itself has enough heft. I also liked the pork sausage. Grits were ordinary, as was the biscuit. Eggs cooked exactly as I asked.
Russell’s Marina Grill is just what it has always been: a perfectly reliable place to have a perfectly reliable breakfast. Nothing at all wrong with that.
Russell's Marina Grill
8555 Pontchartrain Blvd New Orleans
Friday and Saturday 7am-9:10 pm