Friday, January 13, 2012

Our Search for Breakfast…

takes us into the Lakeview area of New Orleans. As their names suggest, Lakeview and Lakeshore are near Lake Ponchartrain, which, in truth, is not a lake but an estuary and is the second-largest inland saltwater body of water in the United States, after the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

“The Lakeview and Lakeshore area are compara-tively little visited by out-of-towners. It is known by locals for the parks along the lakeshore and restaurants…This area was hit hard by the flooding from levee failures during Hurricane
Katrina in 2005—some parts were under more than 10 feet of standing water for weeks. As of mid-2011 many businesses and attractions are back, and there are ever more signs of the pleasant prosperous part of town this was before Katrina” (

Our destination that morning was Russell’s Marina Grill, best known for fresh squeezed orange juice, Killer Bloody Marys, fried green tomatoes to die for, and for being the birthplace of the Onion Mumm (I also thought Outback invented this) .

“Perched near the near the start of Lakeshore Drive, Russell’s fits right in with the ‘harbor’ vibe of the whole area. Large windows wrap around the entire dining room giving it a nice wide-open feel. The pastel color scheme and aquatic-motif are a bit misleading, because at first glance Russell’s doesn’t really look like a spot that could dish up some mean omelets. But isn’t underestimation a treat nowadays? The best way I can sum up the feel of Russell’s is that it almost makes you feel healthy, while you’re knoshing on bacon and eggs…” (neworleanscondotrends).

Ray Cannata at describes Russell’s: “…Large cheesy mural of the local marina (and historic lighthouse), bad pastel 1980’s posters of beach scenes, awful sailboat art. But clean and comfortable and fits the very Lakeview-ish crowd there. Windows had small metal plaques under each acknowledging customers or friends who presumably sponsored windows or the rebuilding of the restaurant after the Storm.”

Zachary A. at, says: “Russell's has changed and not changed very much in the few decades it has existed, but the ‘not changing’ part is the awesome kind and what I'm going to talk about…For years and years Russell's was the fore-runner in the classic American diner breakfast. All the meats and bread options you could want, fresh home-made everything (including biscuits and muffins!!!). It has competition now…but still you cannot find a longer (or faster moving) line for a sit-down, honest-to-god (free and constant) coffee-refilling, fresh-juice-serving, egg-white-and-pork-chop-available-inside, or outside-morning-victual plate anywhere in the city. Most of the servers in the morning have been there for a decade or more they usually know what you want before you do.”

Arrive at around 10:00 a.m. on a winter weekday, and you have the restaurant almost to yourself with only a few tables occupied and three diners seated at the counter. Or they might have been waiting for take out.

The breakfast menu contains the standard eggs/meat/potato combos, pancakes (including sweet potato pancakes), biscuits and gravy, waffles (including the Bananas Foster Belgium Waffle served with ice cream), and omelets. There are some interesting takes on Eggs Benedict with versions sitting on fried green tomatoes, fried catfish, or crab cakes.

It didn’t take Chuck long to decide on scrambled eggs with home fries, and a ten-ounce Chicken Fried Steak. My assessment of his meal is: the scrambled eggs more closely resembled a very flat plain omelet; the potatoes were flavorful from green pepper, onions, and garlic but could have been crisper; the sausage gravy was blah and tasted like flour (I’m glad I didn’t order the biscuits and gravy); and the chicken fried steak, while huge, had an excess of gristle. I do credit the kitchen for a nice crisp coating on the meat although I did think the coating was a bit too thick.

What brought us to Russell’s that morning was my craving for chicken and waffles and I read that Russell’s served an admirable version of this dish. “This popular breakfast joint is not exactly where you would expect to find this famous dish, but don’t be dissuaded by their more traditional reputation. They serve up an awesome rendition of fried chicken and waffles with a spectacular maple-Dijon dipping sauce.

“…Russell’s serves their waffles with white meat chicken tenders. Though dark meat on the bone often is more moist and flavorful than white meat, Russell’s cooks up some really delicious (and juicy) chicken fingers that are great on their own and even better on a waffle. They have a nice, crispy fried batter, that is salty enough to achieve the kettle corn-esque salty-sweet dynamic, but not so savory that it clashes with the syrup. The texture of the crispy fried chicken really complements the fluffy waffle, but the best part of the dish is the sauce. The maple syrup inspired sweet and salty dipping sauce has a hint of Dijon mustard and horseradish hiding behind the maple flavor. Together, it is a phenomenal dish and a super-filling breakfast” (Jenny Sklar at

I agree with Jenny’s description with one exception. I didn’t find the waffle to be at all fluffy. In fact, I thought it was dry as if left in the iron too long. But the tenders (I didn’t miss the bones) were delicious—especially when dipped in the spicy maple dipping sauce.

Russell’s was OK. No need to hurry back. 3.0 Addies. I’d rather take the shuttle into the Quarter and have breakfast at Stanley Restaurant.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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