It’s hard to believe this post was written over three years ago, and even harder to believe that I’m reposting it in memory of chef and owner Ria Pell. She was a self-taught culinary talent and a genuinely awesome person. She will be missed.
Ah yes, brunch with the ex. We used to go to brunch most every Sunday when we were together so when SS suggested it I agreed it would be nice, for old time’s sake.
And what better place to go than Ria’s? Back in our punk rock days, she was the big lesbian that would kick any guy’s ass (and I’m sure she still could). Now she is a successful restaurateur….we’re all so proud!
Ria’s Bluebird is in a small building on Memorial Drive, across from Oakland Cemetery. Breakfast and lunch are served daily but it’s her brunch that has everyone lining up on the weekends, from old folks with walkers to tattooed young parents.
The bluebird motif is found throughout the restaurant. A bright blue painted ceiling and matching wood chairs paired with well-worn wood tables give the space a homey, kitschy vibe, perfect for this progressive ‘hood. A covered patio on the side provides a pretty yet eclectic seating alternative.
Anything but average, Ria’s menu is a combination of Southern and Southwestern flavors with numerous vegetarian options like the country fried tempeh with house gravy, grilled tomato and sauteed spinach atop a grilled buttermilk biscuit. But SS and I are unrepentant carnivores so we opted for hearty meat and egg dishes.
I chose one of the specials, chipotle chicken gravy benedict. It is almost impossible for me to resist benedict, although my preference is the traditional hollandaise sauce. The promise of spiciness from the chipotle plus the sweet potato cake for my side sounded scrumptious. I didn’t realize it was served on a split biscuit when I ordered it, and I’m not a big biscuit fan. The gravy wasn’t nearly spicy enough so I had to request Texas Pete’s, but I loved the sweet potato cake flavored with cinnamon. A dab of the homemade applesauce on the table was yummy with it.
SS wanted something that would stick to his ribs so he ordered the biscuits and gravy. Ria’s gravy is called pepper milk gravy, a vegetarian version of red-eye gravy. He also got a side of two fried eggs and a side of bacon. Ria’s is generally quite affordable but despite being on a budget, with all his sides SS’s breakfast added up to $12, the same as my special. Math was not his best subject.
Other than eggs and bacon a la carte, Ria’s offers an array of unusual sides like spicy tofu cubes, sliced avocado, and a cup o’ beans, allowing guests to be creative. And, according to The NY Times, they serve the “world’s best pancakes”. I saw another diner’s pancakes and they were fluffier than my bed pillow!
The atmosphere alone is worth a visit and if you love biscuits and pancakes, ya just gotta go!