There’s no shortage of love at Ria’s Bluebird — love for amazingly delicious food, love surrounding Grant Park, love for needy community members and love for the restaurant’s dearly departed namesake, Chef Ria Pell. With all this love comes a culinary institution celebrating 15 years of feeding Atlanta with a scrumptious, creative menu and a staff that brings a smile to everyone who stops by for the tastiest brunch in town.
I’ve been to Ria’s Bluebird plenty of times, but this time I asked my mom, in from out of town, to join me for brunch. I knew the restaurant had won her over right when we got there, after someone on staff offered her an unsolicited cup of coffee since the weather was freezing outside (our research occurred during last month’s cold snap). After seeing the eclectic décor and the portion sizes, I think my mom was officially sold on dining at Ria’s.
Atlanta is a brunch town, and Ria’s Bluebird does NOT disappoint with their menu options (especially for those with eating restrictions). The Deep Dish “Frittata,” $10, is egg-free and cornmeal-crusted with skillet potatoes, veggies and tofu; or perhaps vegetarians might enjoy the Country Fried Tempeh, $9.50, with house gravy, grilled tomato, sautéed kale and a biscuit. And don’t get me started on the buttermilk pancakes — I think they must have Harry Potter working in the kitchen because the delicious, airy quality of these round morsels seems magical. Whether you order a short stack, $5, or a fat stack, $7, these suckers are delicious drenched in Ria’s hot maple syrup. (Don’t forget, you can add toasted Georgia pecans, caramelized bananas, chocolate chips … I’m sorry, what was I saying? My mind drifted off to breakfast land.)
I’m a sucker for breakfast burritos, so I got the Bluebird Burrito, $10, stuffed with scrambled eggs, potatoes, white cheddar cheese and black beans, topped with salsa verde and sour cream. My mom went with that day’s omelette special, $10.25 (make sure to ask about the specials because they’ve had some delicious doozies — smoked salmon and cream cheese, dry-aged salami and sun-dried tomato pesto, etc.). Today’s omelette (as of press time) was the sage goat cheese with roasted butternut squash.
Depending on when you go, you can catch other specials, like Fried Chicken Fridays (fried chicken and waffles with pepper honey) — just make sure to get there early because once they run out, well, they run out. Currently, the “inspired eggs Benedict” is the Ya-Ka-Mein Bowl, their version of a New Orleans street food featuring spaghetti noodles, roasted top round, spicy broth and two poached eggs. Another go-to menu staple? The Brisket Breakfast, $12, featuring Angus beef, slow roasted for 14 hours, and served with two poached eggs and a toasted baguette.
If lunch is more your thing, order one of the savory sandwiches, all $10, like the grilled pimento cheese sandwich featuring the aforementioned melt-in-your-mouth brisket and red onion jam, or a tempeh Reuben (featuring the traditional Reuben ingredients, except with a vegetarian twist). Those looking for healthier options can try one of the salads, $9, like the arugula salad (with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, candied spiced pecans and apricot vinaigrette). Bonus? For $3.50, you can add a scoop of protein, like rosemary chicken salad, grilled shrimp or spicy tofu cubes.
It’s impossible to talk about Ria’s Bluebird without mentioning Ria herself. Ria Pell was a renowned chef who owned Ria’s Bluebird (as well as Sauced before it closed) and did amazingly creative things in the kitchen. Besides her work thinking up delicious dishes, she was an outspoken advocate and activist for Atlanta’s LGBTQ community. After passing away in late 2013, her family, friends, staff, community members and loyal customers poured (and continue to pour) their emotions onto a special Facebook page, Remembering Ria.
The restaurant continues to honor Ria’s posthumous requests and memory by sporadically donating proceeds from the day to needy community members. This larger-than-life personality was, and still is, so beloved that her people continue to honor her with a tribute to her passing each anniversary of her death.
If you want to try and taste love and savor pure joy, Ria’s Bluebird is as close as you are going to come. This breakfast hot spot is a place for you to fill your belly, meet with friends and be at peace with exactly who you are.
Stop by Ria’s Bluebird at 421 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta, GA 30312. The restaurant is open daily, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Find out more about the current specials and other menu items by visiting Ria’s website, riasbluebird.com, or calling (404) 521-3737.