In the quaint neighborhood of Grant Park, a recently gentrified neighborhood where quaint houses are still being restored and graffiti is a legitimate form of business advertisement, restaurants here seem to follow a rustic design and a similar class of food.
Ria’s Bluebird, a daily breakfast and lunch place, offers one of the best Southwestern flavors in the city while still fitting in so well with the area. The building seems to have been transplanted from a dusty corner of Arizona and dropped across the street from Oakland Cemetery near popular spots like Six Feet Under, Tin Lizzy’s, and Nick’s Food to Go.
The space is rather raw looking, with a wood panel floor, wooden furniture worn down as if it had been outside in a dry heat, a metal ceiling and only a few tables populating the rather small space. The bar holds a few more for those who need to be closer to the strong house coffee and espresso machine if the hearty meals somehow don’t wake you up.
Even on a Tuesday morning, every table was occupied, and the sunshine from the front window that occupies the squat building’s entire facade is enough to completely light the space. The service was friendly and quick enough. A personal standard of breakfast place ambition is the number of opportunities for coffee refills offered by the server. Our server gave us several chances to reimbibe and we all left well caffeinated because of it.
Ria’s menu offers a few standbys — like biscuits and gravy and buttermilk pancakes — but the offerings are quite original and none will disappoint. The brisket breakfast and bluebird burrito are what set the particularly Southwestern flavor of Ria’s Bluebird, pushing strong peppery flavors into a hearty breakfast.
The brisket breakfast is a strongly peppered tomato soup that could likely pass more as a broth with the chunks of beef brisket that had roasted for 14 hours. A couple of poached eggs float with the brisket, brilliantly soaking up the flavor and adding to the mouth watering presentation. On the side, a short baguette with a brittle crust and perfect crumb for soaking in the soup pairs perfectly with the dish. The coffee, though quite good, does not pair as well since they both are quite strong and hot and tend to cancel each other out at your tongue’s expense. The burrito was served alongside a choice of a side item and provided a surprisingly cohesive blend of both breakfast and Southwestern tastes.
Ria’s Bluebird also hosts a daily changing omelet complemented with a choice of options from a traditional southern breakfast. I had a plate of thick cut sliced ham, sweet potato cake, and a biscuit on the side of my caramelized onion and brie omelet. The ham was cooked perfectly, a moist, tender, and sweet addition to the omelet’s more mellow character. The biscuit did not disappoint with the right amount of flake and crust, while the sweet potato cake left something unsettled. This last item was my choice of a side so perhaps it was my fault that it did not work with the rest of the breakfast.
In short Ria’s presents a clear option to the potential guest. You can either take the usual breakfast route which they do a great job with, or you can try something with a little more character. It is a weird and twisted blend of options, but it gets the job done and deliciously so.