Ria Pell opened this diner long before the recent
additions of Six Feet Under next door and Mi Barrio a few blocks
away. The first time a friend insisted we go to Riaís Bluebird
for brunch on a Saturday, I didnít know what to think. We had
to sit outside with a lot of hipper-than-thou scenesters for
at least 45 minutes just to get in the door to the tiny diner,
but I learned quickly why the place was so popular. Itís not
just that Ria is a hot hunk of big olí dyke (hummina hummina).
Itís not just that the waitrons are cooler than you ever dreamed
you could be. Itís not just that the muzak is better than most
any other place youíd go. And itís not that Riaís is vegetarian-friendly,
though it definitely is. Itís simply that the food is absolutely
delicious. I have never had a bad meal at Riaís Ė not once Ė
and Iíve been going pretty regularly since I was first seduced
two years ago.
The best meal at Riaís is breakfast/brunch, which is served
all day. And you had better get there early on the weekends
or be content to read the paper while you wait for a table to
open up. The diner itself is very small (maybe ten tables and
a handful of stools at the counter), but there is also space
on the patio, weather permitting. My favorite meal is the brisket
breakfast ($7), which consists of a helping of slightly spicy
beef brisket in tomatoey stock with two poached eggs on top
and French bread on the side (to sop up the yummy broth, of
course). This is a wonderful breakfast spin on classic Jew food.
However, everything on Riaís breakfast/brunch menu is divine.
There is a daily omelette special ($7.50), and her homemade
biscuits and course-ground grits are the best in Atlanta. Yes,
even better than Crescent Moon!
Riaís lunch menu is a little on the frou-frou side, with such
sandwiches as a tempeh reuben or a pepper turkey melt with caramelized
onions, avocado, and baby swiss on grilled marble rye (each
$7.50 with one side). There is always a soup du jour and a variety
of salads to choose from. (Soup and salad, $6.) And there are
also specials such as chicken pot pie ($8) or quesadillas ($7-$8).
Whatever you choose to have for lunch, consider a side of rosemary,
chick pea, and feta salad. Yummy!
Just as the hipsters sourly speculated would happen, Riaís
is now drawing a business-class following from the downtown
lunch crowd. I admit I was disappointed the first time I walked
in to see coworkers in my favorite secret hiding place. But
you know what? Yuppies are people, too. We all gotta eat. And
Iím sure Ria knows that plastic from a leather billfold is just
as good as crumpled cash from the bottom of your lunchbox purse.