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Camellia Grill

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I finally made it to Camellia Grill. Sorry to say that it was a disappointment. Our server was very friendly. I don't see myself going back for the food.

My friend and I ordered burgers. The buns were put on the grill, warmed a little, but not grilled or browned. The meat had no seasoning at all. I watched closely as several omelets were prepared. No salt, pepper or any type of seasoning was added. The bacon was good and generous, 3 strips. My granddaughter ordered the hamburger steak plate. The meat was a large hamburger patty...not one bit of seasoning, no onions, no gravy. Could not have been more blah. The fries were frozen plain, plain fries with not one grain of salt.

We all ordered the freeze. They were good.

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  1. Sounds as though it has "gone coprorate" to me (although the long-time owners got rid of it YEARS ago. I have not been in twenty years. A friedn asked me if my favorite waiter (no, it was not Harry although I liked Harry a lot) was still alive. I said that I did not know and I am afraid to ask. Im a coward in this regard...the rest is personal.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hazelhurst

      I went there this year during jazz fest and everything was great. The burger was amazing and the pecan pie was to die for. They put it on the grill and then topped it off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I went to tulane University over 15 years ago and the food tastes exactly the same.

    2. We have great memories of the place as well and so want it to be good. The breakfast items are ok. It just lacks soul.

      1 Reply
      1. re: brchow

        That's just a goddamn shame....

      2. I hate to hear this. It's been a while since we have gone. I just think sometimes nostalgia clouds my view, but I am sorry to hear about things going downhill. They opened another Camellia Grill in Destin and when we went, it may as well have been McDonald's. A Shame!

        1. I am greatly saddened to hear this. I was a great fan, when we lived in NOLA, and made it back for a "nutty" on almost every trip.

          Have not been, post-K, so have nothing else to add. Sounds like it's a shame and they will be missed. I have several pieces of art in my home, that depicts the Camillia Grill. One, a Phillip Sage pen and ink, used to hang, as a print, over the cash register.

          Sorry to hear the news,

          Hunt

          1. I agree. We went there last week for the first time. I think they try to hard to be entertaining, and are not paying attention to the food. To be honest, listening to that same patter 3 times in 15 minutes got to be annoying. noisy, and medicore food is not a great dining experience.

            1. I've always had good experiences there--my last visit was a few months ago--but I must say I guess I don't really go for the food. The CG is less than two blocks from my house, and usually when I go I'm with friends, it's late at night, I'm tired, and I really just want a decent grilled cheese, fries and a freeze. For that, I've always found it reliable, or maybe it's just that the wait for a seat makes it taste better.

              1. My experience was similar to other posters. Bland, sloppy food thrown at you by attendants that would be more at home at a FQ tourist trap. My Reuben was a mess of a sandwich - greasy, barely grilled bread slopped with sauerkraut and corned beef, cut, and thrown on a plate. My counter-mate's omelet was just as unappealing - scorched brown in spots and seemingly just thrown together. I appreciate the history, but I came for the food. The current owners and employees need to embrace the reputation of CG. Nostalgia does not guarantee return customers.

                1. This place has always been overrated..I never understood what all the hoopla was about with this place. Just a diner restaurant you can find in any city in america.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: runCP3

                    That might be taking it a bit far. I'd been dining there from the very late '60s through the early '80s, and then on almost every trip to NOLA from then, until pre-K and the sale.

                    For about three years, I managed to eat breakfast as their opening about 2x per week. Almost everything that I ate there was good, although only the nutty waffles bordered on very, very good. We also ended up there, just before closing and encountered similar.

                    Now, my limited excursions in recent years might have relied more on nostalgia, than on a firm commitment to doing a review of the cuisine. Given my history there, I might not have been as objective, as I once was.

                    My trips were also per-K and pre-sale, so much might well have changed. I would never think of arguing with one, who has a bad experience now. I will only say that what they once served was fun, quite good and well worth either the wait, or the $. [I am NOT a fan of waiting in any restaurant lines, but would there.]

                    My heart is greatly saddened. For me, a tradition seems to have died. That is too bad.

                    Hunt

                  2. We just had dinner at the Caemilla Grill in July 2009 and we had a wonderful experience. My roast beef sandwich was delicious--tasty and flavorful. The meat was tender. The highlight was definitely the pecan pie that our waiter warmed on the grill and topped with a heaping scoop of Blue Bell ice cream. I also love the atmosphere: the white marble counter tops, cloth napkins, bow-tied waiters. It's a diner, but it has class.

                    1. I have to strongly disagree with what many people here say. I live here and I go to Camellia Grill often. I'm not sure what everyone is expecting -- Camellia is not Ruth's Chris steakhouse, it's not Emeril's, it's a greasy spoon diner. No more, no less. It's one of my favorite places for burgers because I don't like the gigantic overstuffed burgers most people like; Camellia burgers are a manageable size, are simple and just good. I always get a cheesburger dressed. I have NEVER, ever had any food there I would even remotely describe as bland. I love the fact that they don't salt your fries and they let me put as much or as little salt on them as I want. And... you expected handmade fries at a diner?

                      Camellia has most certainly not "gone corporate," it's just a burger joint, it's not even a chain.

                      My usual is a cheeseburger and fries and a chocolate cherry freeze. I also love the Camellia Club sandwich and the other night I took a friend from out of town there and I asked for a tuna melt for the first time, it was great.

                      I am originally from NYC and I grew up going to lots of NY diners, and Camellia Grill is, in my opinion, an excellent southern version of a diner. This is not high brow food and if you want that, you should absolutely not go there.

                      My favorite waiter there is Michael, by the way. He is a lovely man and not over-the-top in the way some of the waiters there are. He works Saturday nights for sure, I'm not sure what other nights.

                      If you go to Camellia expecting low brow diner food you will be happy. If you are expecting something else, you shouldn't even go there at all.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: puma

                        I think people in New Orleans should and do expect more

                        1. re: puma

                          Well, thaat is encouraging--I just have not gotten over there--the last time I tried to take some foreign friends it had rtrhe big line out of the front. As I remarked elsewhere, I am afraid my ld waiter is long gone and just don;t even want to know--he had coffee freezes with ice cream that were excellent. At one time I was told I, alone, accounted for something like 5% of the Cannibal Specials sold in there per year. Probably not true but we had fun with it.

                          1. re: hazelhurst

                            While I stand by everything I said above, I do think Camellia has probably changed a lot in the past few years. I think the menu has changed, certainly it's run by different people, my impression is that all the old waiters are no longer there. So if you used to go there a lot and have not gone in years, I do think a lot of people will be disappointed.

                            I still think it's a great version of a diner.

                          2. re: puma

                            It was glowing reports like yours and many others that took me to Camellia Grill with great anticipation and excitement. I loved it before I went there. And expected to love it more when I finally got to eat there.
                            We all have different tastes. For my taste, a burger patty with no seasoning at all, a bun that could have been nicely grilled...but was barely warmed...is bland. A hamburger steak with no seasoning at all, no gravy, no onions....a big patty of totally unseasoned meat...is bland and not what one would expect when ordering a hamburger steak...anywhere.
                            I'm glad you love Camellia Grill. I really wanted to love it too.

                            1. re: puma

                              Absolute knowledge I have none
                              But my aunt's washerwoman's sister son
                              Heard a laborer, on the street,
                              A laborer whom she did not seek
                              Remark to a policeman on his beat
                              That Camellia Grill, when ancient owners sold,
                              Went through a time of minting gold
                              And, after The Flood, thought,"Why not mine
                              THis name and fun in other clime?"

                              Not knowing, I cannot state for sure
                              That anything other than cow manure
                              Came from this plan. But Lo! I heard
                              That properties were bought in another burg.
                              The plan, perhaps an avaricious construct
                              By bankers in need of fiscal de-duct,
                              May have run awry? Not knowing, I cannot say,
                              Cannot suspect, can only detect
                              What MIGHT have been, what MIGHT have been so.

                              Was Louie's Cafe at LSU
                              Under assault by the wanna-be empire?
                              Are the Corporate Rumors believed to be true?
                              Or does the Grill still belong to me and you?

                              I speak of the past..my days are numbered
                              I know only the Grill before 'twas sundered
                              (as all else was rent, and torn, too boot:

                              The Grill of 19-and 65
                              Was full of friends--most still alive
                              And waiters and customers ALL were pals
                              It is not unique to Carrolton Ave...
                              Similar comity lives on streets
                              In Chicago, Detroit, --all urban treats
                              To those who listen..or who care to care
                              About the others who take care of us
                              as we sit, waited upon, in the chair.

                              So absolute knoweldge I have none
                              The cadence is flawed..so Tennyson was
                              Bedevilled by internal ryhmes
                              I leave the field..a bit tired, just now,
                              But hopeful of "interesting times"

                              1. re: hazelhurst

                                Clap clap clap clap! Thanks!

                                1. re: hazelhurst

                                  Bravo! Shall we hope for more?

                                2. re: puma

                                  I second Puma's post whole-heartedly. Those of us who remember it and have gone back find little changed--the food was never exquisite. It is and always has been a greasy spoon. Just because we've also eaten white asparagus omelets and shoestring fries befriended by shards of garlic and rosemary doesn't mean we can't appreciate a mid-afternoon or 3 am binge of chili-cheese omelets, pecan waffles, and orange freezes (no ice cream, please) in work boots or white tie and smile as Clarence reaches across the counter to proffer a half-naked straw.

                                  1. re: LostBread

                                    I disagree..it was never a "greasy spoon"...it was always better than that. The coffee, prior to the new urns installed in 1980 or so, was still thick. The chili for the incomparable chili-cheese omelette, was made in the back and was damn good. There was a lot of work that went into making it look easy...anyone who ever went to the bathrooms back in the kittchen could see that. No devotee of the Grill would ever claim it is haute cuisine or ever was..it was set-up to be a replica of a diner, with a Gone With The Wind facade. I am hopeful that it still has a a character of its own and someday...probably this coming Carnival season... I will get back..but my heart will break while longing for my old friends behind the counter.

                                    Ah, well...the younger generation is generating its own memories...t'was ever thus and I hope you guys find it as fun as I have.

                                    1. re: hazelhurst

                                      Ah, perhaps "chili ladle" would be better.

                                      As for the good coffee before 1980--that year is exactly the limit of my memory. If the quality declined 29 years ago, though, it seems strange to moan now. (Though we can hope, still, we can hope). All I can attest to is that in these 29 years, the changes that have come have been negligible beside the fact that at least the Grill is still there.

                                      1. re: LostBread

                                        No moaning here...just wondering....I speak only to the place as i knew it day in and day out, when I had a charge account there and rode a bicycle to it damn near every night from Tulane. I'm glad the place is still in business and providing apparent fun for people. I'll get back over there this Carnival Season, I think...but I am not 18 anymore.

                                        When the rumors flew that the Grill was to essay a Baton Rouge effort (to compete with Louie's) I happened to have breakfast at Louie's...they offered a chili-cheese omlette. Fool that I am, I tried it....it was decently cooked eggs (not as well done as the Grill) and some sort of processed "cheese" but the goddamn chili was canned crap. It was a nightmare. I thought fondly of the Grilla nd hoped they'd open up in BR and shut this crap down.

                                  2. re: puma

                                    I completely agree with puma. Sometimes I fore go the cheeseburger for the classic, simple grilled cheese with a chocolate freeze. Delicious!

                                  3. My brother, (former NO native), from Little Rock was there last year and he loved it. His friend, also from Little Rock, praised the food. I haven't been since moving to Atlanta but the few times I went right before Katrina were very satisfying. Planning to visit N.O. in August. Will let you know then.

                                    1. Y'all who say it sucks now are crazy!! It looks smells and feels exactly like it did pre-k AND pre-sale! We went back to NOLA for a vacation and ended up eating at the Camellia Grill 3 times in 4 days and each time was great. I know I'm gettin' in this late but puh-leeze!! All you crazy kids gotta do is breath in, breath out and eat a cheeseburger and french fries with a mocha freeze. See? Don't you feel much better?

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: jreedtattooer

                                        Totally agree. I went last week and had a waffle with one scrambled egg, boyfriend has a bacon cheeseburger with a side of cheese fries. MMMMMMM!!! Never been better in my opinion...

                                        1. re: 25dollars

                                          Sometimes, I worry that the locals, and we, ex-pats, paint a different picture of CG for newcomers.

                                          Weighing some of the comments in this thread, I feel that some were expecting MiLa, or Restaurant August, instead of CG.

                                          Many of us know it for what it is, or what it was. Since I have not been after the various changes, I cannot comment on CG now, but will rectify that on the next trip.

                                          Still, I can see where a visitor might have expectations for something totally different.

                                          It would be like going to Felix's, and expecting Galatoire's. Hey, they are close to each other, and both get good comments on the NOLA board, right?

                                          Maybe we need to develop some sort of a "Legend," to better serve visitors. Could be a color code to point out "local color, and good food," as opposed to "fine-dining with a Creole flair."

                                          Hunt

                                      2. I went for first time and for a diner its pretty darn good.

                                        1. I went there for the first time a few weeks ago. My husband and I loved it and would not hesitate to take guests there. I had a massive omelet and my husband got some kind of big mess burger. The onion rings were awful, frozen things. Avoid those. Loved the ambiance and the marble counters. However, I would not want to wait in a long line to eat there. I suggest weekday afternoons.

                                          1. DON'T GO!!!
                                            There are too many great places to eat in NOLA to waste a meal here.

                                            Omlette burnt.
                                            Asked for cheddar, got American even though they confirmed cheddar TWICE.
                                            Fake syrup on the counter beside the liquid margarine.
                                            Bland grits...almost the worst I've ever had.

                                             
                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: hobokenhound

                                              I've only been there a couple of times in all my years living there. I never did get the love for it. I guess it's a childhood thing for some people.

                                              Hobokenhound, where are you in Hoboken? I'm back on Madison between 6th and 7th.

                                              1. re: roro1831

                                                For me, it definitely was. I came upon them many decades ago, and dined there over the years. Wife's family moved from State St. to the River Bend neighborhood, in the 50's, and it was a part of her life.

                                                We dined there, and usually for breakfast, for the first ten years of our marriage, plus I had done so for about 10 years before that.

                                                When we got back to NOLA, they were always high on our list.

                                                Hurricane Katrina hit, and many things changed. Over the next few years, we did not manage to get there, for various reasons.

                                                Just returned, and some things had changed. Still, the "Nutty Waffles," were, almost as they were, several years prior. While we did not do the full menu, we were impressed.

                                                Was it the greatest meal of our lifetimes? No way, but for a late breakfast of Nutty Waffles and crisp bacon, it was great. I also have to say that the coffee (never a strong point with us) was much, much better.

                                                Hunt

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  I agree with you. Possibly people get the wrong idea. Its basically a diner with attitude and history. We were there last time about 2 months ago around 12:30 (AM). Place was quite crowded. Students, regular folks looking for food before heading home, 2 couples all decked out who had just come from the opera. Grabbed a burger (mediocre-ordinary), onion rings (very, very good) and a chocolate-cherry freeze (YUM!!!). Full stomachs and on our way in 30 minutes. Character, history, fun, pretty decent food but certainly not fine dining. But I enjoy it. And love those freezes!

                                                  1. re: kate7047

                                                    No, Camellia Grill is NOT "fine-dining," at any level. However, it has always been good "diner food." So long as one is not expecting something else, most enjoy themselves, AND the food.

                                                    While I did not recognize any of the servers, their "attitude" was still there, so the "new guys" have been quick studies.

                                                    Was it as good, as I remembered? We both worked over that aspect, and think that it was close. The Nutty Waffles were almost the same, and the Chili Cheese Fries were right up there. Still, with only one, post-K trip, we did not get to try it all.

                                                    Hunt

                                              2. re: hobokenhound

                                                We finally made it back, post-K, and I do not agree with you on any count.

                                                Sorry that you had a bad meal.

                                                Hunt

                                              3. Camellia grill has lost its groove might have been great thirty years ago but now not so much.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: joedontexan

                                                  Actually, I thought that they had "found their groove," but what do I know, after dining there for about 40 years?

                                                  Hunt

                                                2. This place is absolutely the worst restaurant in New Orleans. Omelettes made with margarine on a dirty flat-top and served with burned bits of hamburger stuck to the grill (and not in a "kitschy," cute way; in a really really disgusting way). Worse than any high school cafeteria in the country.