The shtick: Southern fare without a lot of fuss.
The vibe: Luella’s is pretty casual, ideal for a brunch that’s a little more utilitarian than celebratory. The restaurant is counter service, and the line to place an order is mostly populated with neighborhood families toting a kid or two. Speaking of that line—you’ll probably wait in it for a bit, but it moves pretty quickly. Décor is sparse but homey, and you can see and hear into the kitchen as you order and eat. It’s no-frills, but still a perfectly welcoming place for a meal. 7.5 out of 10
The food: The Southern menu is equally frill-less, a tight selection of about 10 staples. Best amongst them is the pimiento cheeseburger ($11), made with Slagel Farms beef and slathered in a piquant pimiento cheese and topped with an egg. Thin, well-griddled patties keep things a manageable size, and you get a little bit of everything in each bite, an ideal burger balance. Apple cider chicken and waffles ($12) almost hit the mark—juicy, well-fried chicken coated in a crackly skin—but there’s barely any cider in the waffles themselves, and a little bit of sweetness and spice could have kept it from being too one-note. And in a city with so many exemplary biscuit offerings, we were hoping for a little more tang in the buttermilk biscuits ($5), something to make them stand out in a crowded field. They’re plenty fluffy but a little bland. 6.5 out of 10
The drinks: If you’re planning to booze, you’ll need to take your brunching elsewhere. Instead, there’s ample sweet tea and plenty of coffee, both solid choices. 7 out of 10
The service: Some of the friendliest staffers in town—it really does feel like a family operation here, and you’re likely to interact with chef Darnell Reed at some point during your meal (he delivered our food to our table and stopped in for a chat with most every other group.) It’s also pretty speedy. 9 out of 10
Overall: A solid choice for the neighborhood thanks to general good vibes and dining efficiency. 7.5 out of 10