The story of the Camellia Grill wouldn't be complete without mentioning the late Harry Tervalon, a fixture on the night shift for almost fifty years. The apotheosis of a Camellia Grill waiter, he set the style for the place, and will for many years to come. Any poll seeking the best New Orleans waiter of all time would elect Harry in a landslide.
It's a long-running, beloved icon in the Riverbend section, cooking basic diner food with more verve and polish than this menu usually gets. A great place for breakfast, whether you get it in the morning or late at night. It's better than it was before Katrina, but not as good as it was in its golden age (1950s-1970s).
The Camellia Grill was opened in 1946 by the Shwartz family, which owned the Maison Blanche department store. From the outset the place had gentility and class. Its reputation became so great that after its golden age ended (in the 1990s), newcomers often wondered what the big deal was all about. When the place failed to reopen for many months after the hurricane, the place was covered with love notes begging it to reopen. Finally, restaurateur Hicham Khodr bought it from the third-generation owner, performed a deep renovation of the kitchen (but not the cherished dining room), and reopened the place in April 2007 to mobs of customers.
One brightly-lit room with a high ceiling and a crenellated, marble-topped counter. Almost all the cooking goes on right behind the counter. The waiters, inspired by the incomparable Harry, are famous for their patter and personalities. And the linen napkins have returned.
Avoid the four outside corners of the counter, which don't give enough space for comfortable eating. The inside corners are the best seats.