Russell’s: The Flavors of My Youth
I was just saying to someone the other day that there is a lack of true blue diners in Los Angeles. And then I discovered Russell’s.
There is a wealth of Jewish Delis, Italian Sub shops and Greek eateries and even though they share some of the same signature dishes that one associates with diner food, we all know the experience and options are completely different. Culinary-wise, culturally and ethnically, they are all so apart but put those three cultures and ethnicities together, toss in classic American fare, and voila you’ve got the melting pot that is amazing diner food.
It’s hard to describe the spirit and flavor of what an honest to goodness diner dish tastes like but you know it the second you take a bite.
Whether it’s the almighty cheeseburger deluxe, the momma’s meatloaf platter or the classic American breakfast: eggs, hash browns and thick, fat sausage links, you just know.
Like the lips of your woman, you know.
You know the genuine article from the pretenders instantaneously. And this is where Russell’s comes into the picture. It is the genuine article and the real McCoy all rolled into one fantastic burrito of love.
Growing up in NYC I had a treasure trove of diners to choose, from the Waverly in the Village to Utopia on the Upper West Side and I often think about those meals with friends and family and it pulls on my heartstrings.
Diners are THE traditional American meeting places for conversation, for comfort and for fun.
Now I have one to call my own in Los Angeles and I will call him Russell’s and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him. (A little Looney Tunes reference for ya, right there.)
Located on North Fair Oaks Avenue in Old Town Pasadena, Russell’s has been around since 1930 and it serves up quality classic American diner fare to classical music.
Yes, dear reader, classical music wistfully carries the sweet aroma of sizzling bacon and fried potato and the space is adorned with chandeliers and art works from Van Gogh, Modigliani, Vermeer, and Klimt.
The owner apparently has a hard on for Paris.
It’s a charming environment, one that calmed me right away as I was cranky as f*ck navigating through Pasadena on a hot, humid, congested Sunday afternoon.
My girlfriend and I were dropping off my novel Aversion for consignment at Vroman’s and I was planning on going to Dog Haus Biergarten. I had found it on Yelp as I was in the mood for a creative dog and tater tots, but the line was ridiculously long and Adeye offered up Russell’s as a alternate.
She had heard they made a mean burger. And they do.
They really, really do!
It’s served with simple, fresh, quality ingredients. The produce was crisp and clean, the bun soft and moist, crunchy and toasty. The strips of bacon were warm, thick and perfectly fatty. The melted cheddar was sharp and slid down along the charred and super juicy burger patty. The combination of the cold produce, the hot burger and the slather of 1000 island dressing made for the perfect burger experience.
The chili cheese fries were no schlub either, but it’s all about the burger and it should be.
It tasted exactly like the burgers of my childhood, the flavors of my youth. With a trillion burger joints and gastro pubs to choose from in an age were everyone is trying to, and in some cases succeeds in, artfully improving an iconic American classic… it doesn’t get any more traditional and iconic than Russell’s.