By Gretchen Kurtz
By Mark Antonation
By Cafe Society
By Kristin Pazulski
By Chris Utterback
By Cafe Society
By Jamie Swinnerton
By Jamie Swinnerton
So they ordered oatmeal, fresh fruit, granola and biscuits and laughed right along with her -- not realizing that the old truism about how a salesgirl calling you "Ma'am" really means she's calling you "Bitch" goes double for a waitress: The more formal and polite a waitress becomes, the more she wants to kill you.
I had the same waitress for my meal. And with a full house and a wait on the books, she got me in, got me fed and got me out again with amazing efficiency, all in less than an hour and with no hostility, masked or otherwise. I tipped large and left happy. It was the most successful relationship I've ever had with a girl. So keep this in mind: If you're getting bad service at a place like Lucile's, maybe you should think about why. The world's full of jerks, after all, and it's quite possible that you're one of them.
I had eggs New Orleans that Saturday, poached perfectly and served over slices of crisp fried eggplant that had gone soft almost to the point of insubstantiality inside their golden-brown jackets. The eggplant was doused in tomato-and-pepper Creole sauce, the eggs with scratch hollandaise, and the entire dish turned into one eggy, soupy, wonderfully bittersweet and savory mess the minute it was touched by a fork. I had chicory and a plate of pillowy beignets dusted with an avalanche of powdered sugar, fried potatoes and a side of thick-cut country ham that the kitchen cures itself. I never order grits, because I don't like them, but the folks at the table behind mine seemed inordinately pleased with theirs. And Lucile's serves lunch, too, but I've never had the presence of mind or the self-control to make it past the breakfast offerings -- except for a catfish po'boy I once took for the road (too fancy with its black-bean mayo and cilantro) and a stolen bite of someone else's crawfish étouffée, which was so good that I regret never managing to order it myself.
Eggs Sardou: $8.95
Eggs New Orleans: $7.95
Fruit and cream: $3.15
Pain perdu: $8.95
Cafe au lait: $3.80
But I can't resist the eggs Sardou: poached eggs on a bed of the best creamed spinach I've had outside of an Indian restaurant, studded with Gulf shrimp and slathered in hollandaise just sweet and sour enough to take the edge off the richness of the creamed greens. I have the eggs with hand-squeezed orange juice, which I order even though the juice is too thick and pulpy for my tastes -- because it seems like I ought to have something healthy on the table to counterbalance all the butter and cream and raw eggs that are no doubt turning my blood to the consistency of warm lard.
If I'm not particularly hungry, I'll order beignets and café au lait, lounging by a window and trying to imagine being on Canal Street, pre-Katrina, or tucked away in some hotel cafe in the French Quarter, dressed in a white linen suit and looking for trouble. The buttermilk biscuits baked by the kitchen are huge, made in sheet pans, cut square and served warm -- even steaming on a good day. The pain perdu (French toast) is nothing special, but I like that Lucile's mixes its syrup with melted butter, and the link of hot sausage that comes on the side -- split lengthwise and pan-seared -- is a meal in itself.
The simplest things at Lucile's -- a long bowl of sliced bananas and heavy cream dusted with brown sugar, or a Cajun breakfast of red-bean-and-ham hash -- are beautiful examples of comfort food done right. Over the years, the kitchen has diligently made its own everything, and no one has tried to sneak in lemongrass or frisée or emulsions of anything where they don't belong. Lucile's sells its own hot sauce, and it's good: sweet-hot and peppery, not punishing, not one-note hot but dull, like Tabasco. The kitchen also makes its own jams, its own apple butter and creamy, pepper-spiked sausage gravy, mixes its own Creole seasoning (which the house also sells) and has its own proprietary blend of coffee. Chef Mickey Samuels (late of the Commander's Palace in New Orleans, training ground for Emeril Lagasse and his ilk) came up with most of the recipes used in the back of the house; he ought to be beatified for his biscuits alone. And son Fletcher Richards is now the man of the house, overseeing the party.
If I lived in a house next door to Lucile's, I would be the fattest man in Boulder (though with all the damn triathletes there, I might already be), staking out my territory each morning and suffering through the wait. I would know the waitresses by name and grow huge on Cajun doughnuts, café au lait and eggs Benny in all their Creole disguises. It would be Mardi Gras every morning with no Lenten fast, and Lucile's would slowly become my home away from home until -- 25 more years from now -- I would be one of those old-timers, sitting there sipping my orange juice and poking at my plate of fried potatoes and sausage, wondering who all these damn new people were crashing my party and what asshole let them in.