|Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.|
If you are not served in 5 minutes, relax, it may be another 5;
This is definitely not New York City.
Every breakfast joint worth its salt has to have a wisecracking counterman to go along with the hash slingers and waiters. At then Clover Grill, that would be Robbie from Oakdale, Louisiana. A diamond stud in his left nostril, assorted tattoos on his arms and bowed legs, he fills the place with as much queenish attitude as the smell of bacon frying on the grill.
Anywhere before noon on Bourbon Street, the Clover Grill is the only place of business showing signs of life. Families from the Midwest and locals eat side-by-side, conversation often spreading between tables and counter stools, often abetted by something outlandish Robbie has just said.
The place is fabulously retro. If a film director wanted a period piece from the 1950s, he wouldn’t have to modify one damn thing here. This is quintessential Bourbon Street. We’re not changing anything, we are who we are, and if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.
Red counter stools, gray Formica countertop, gray and black tiled floor, a row of metal tables and chairs under the windows facing Bourbon Street, funky pinkish paint on the walls, it’s the kind of diner your grandmother might have frequented if she wasn’t too fastidious and had a yen for tasty and inexpensive food. My check for two eggs, bacon, a mound of grits, toast AND coffee with endless refills costs $6.83 with tax.
The “American range” grill and gas burners directly across from my stool are missing a knob or 2 and would win no awards for spotlessness but the food coming off of them looks and smells delicious.
The line cook at the grill has an economy of style and unflappable dispostion. Within five seconds she dips a long necked ladle into a metal pot, spills butter into a pan, pulls two eggs off the stacks of cartons, cracks each at the edge of a blackened skillet, slides them in and with a deft flick of the wrist pitches the shells into a trash barrel under the counter. Two minutes later she casually grips the skillet's handle and another flick of the wrist flips them sunnyside over, and slides them onto a plate to be loaded with the rest of the order. Watching her ply her spatula to bacon, burgers, hash browns, and grilled onions is to witness performance art.
The clatter of plates is punctuated by outbursts of laughter and welcoming greetings of “Hey, Baby!”
You’re in clover at the Clover Grill.