When talking about food, ‘medium rare’ refers to cooking meat so the outside is browned with just a hint of red in the middle, striving to provide the perfect combination of tenderness and flavor. This column, much like its namesake, strives to provide the perfect combination of epicurean insight and Atlanta-area atmosphere.
When The New York Times decrees the “best pancakes in the world” lay just across the street from Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery in a tiny, intimate café, it might be easy to doubt.
Ria’s Bluebird puts its money where our mouths are, offering the best damn pancakes (adorned with toasted Georgia pecans, caramelized bananas or chocolate chips) this side of the Mississippi — and beyond.
Named after famed Atlanta chef Aurianna “Ria” Pell, who died in late 2013, Ria’s was converted from run-down liquor store to Atlanta breakfast mecca by Pell and co-owner Alex Skalicky.
From her obituary, we see the Pell’s culinary breadth as well as her essence, which still lives on through the restaurant today:
“Ria’s brisket could make a grown man cry, her vegan chili won accolades, her country fried tempeh made carnivores into vegans while her short-rib beef wellington made vegans into carnivores, her lemon icebox pie was unforgettable and perhaps her simplest but most famous dish was her signature caramelized banana pancakes,” it reads.
And, indeed, the food lives up to all its hype. The biscuits and pepper milk gravy are so fresh you can almost taste the dough rising from the oven.
Everything about the restaurant, from the giant eponymous bird logo painted on the side of the building to the southern prim and proper counter on the inside, smacks of hard work, dedication and vision for a culinary experience.
The cozy nature of the seating provides a Mayberry-esque feeling, but the accompanying long waits do not.
Seating (and parking) is limited, so make sure to arrive early if your hunger is impatient.
In addition to the famous flapjacks, Ria’s offers a variety of healthy and tasty entrees ranging from huevos to a brisket breakfast.
The staff looks like they were imported straight from a Warby Parker/Brawny promo shoot, and are pleasant and knowledgeable when it comes to service.
The one downside, if you can call it a downside, is the lack of parking, seating and suitable waiting area, especially in colder weather. However, popularity should never be a penalty, and the wait made the food taste all the better when the time came.