Revolution Rotisserie & Bar is the brainchild of Nick Pesola, a millennial who leapt into the food business right out of college, peddling rotisserie chicken out of a 10x10 tent in Findlay Market. After honing his cooking skills, Pesola sought out seed money via Kickstarter and other sources to open his first restaurant, which debuted on Race St. in 2015. Three years later, he opened his second location in the former Emanu space in Pleasant Ridge.
Revolution's distinction is that it serves FreeBird brand chicken. FreeBird claims their chickens are humanely raised, antibiotic free and organic. Curiously, Revolution's chicken wings are said to be sourced elsewhere, so it's unclear if those chickens led similarly blissful lives.
A group of us stopped by the Pleasant Ridge location to give it a try. I'd visited the Race St. location a few years ago and ate the chicken tator tot poutine for lunch, which was pretty good. The interior is sleek, warm and inviting, with a mostly black and wood motif. There isn't much to distinguish it as a chicken place, per se. It's been completely gutted and remodeled, bearing no resemblance to its Ethiopian restaurant predecessor. The middle wall has been completely removed to make one prominent dining room with a central bar flush against its north side. The remodel makes good use of the natural light beaming in from the south and west.
Revolution's menu offers far more than just rotisserie chicken and wings. There are burgers, pork tenderloin sandwiches, poutine topped with either chicken or braised short rib, falafel, pot roast and a collection of attractive side items. Revolution had apparently made a name for itself with it's lineup of toasty chicken pitas --"Chitas," as it calls them-- with five rotating variants named for famous people who in some way "revolutionized" the world. As of this writing, the featured Chitas were the John Hancock, Ben Franklin, Nelson Madela, George Washington and Marie Curie.
Our group started off with a side of crispy roasted Brussels spouts and an order of the poutine: a bed of tator tots topped with braised short rib, cheese curds and gravy. We also ordered a selection of their special local microbrews on tap, including Woodburn Brewery's seasonal "Han Solo," a uniquely light, coffee-infused blonde ale, as well as Urban Artifact's "Chariot," a sour, mouth-puckering, cherry gose-style beer.
The Brussels sprouts were quite delicious --a welcome combination of both charred and caramelized flavors coupled with a slightly sweet and acidic zing from the balsamic vinegar tossed in, completely masking the vegetable's inherent bitterness.
The poutine featured prominent, gooey chunks of cheese curds forming around hot, crispy tator tots and a good quantity of tender pot roast with just enough gravy to add flavor but not so much as to make the tots soggy. The poutine was, quite easily, the best dish of our lunch.
Among our group, entrees included a chicken thigh ($9); the Potato Bowl ($12) with mashed potatoes, shredded chicken, pepperjack, bacon, scallions and gravy; the Nelson Mandela chicken pita ($9), with chicken, pepperjack cheese, black beans, corn chips, cilantro, tomato and chipotle ranch; and the Marie Curie chita ($9) with chicken, bbq sauce, smoked gouda, bacon, pineapple, onion and cilantro.
The entrees visually looked promising: the chitas' pita bread was toasty and inviting; and the two potato bowl plates ordered looked plentiful. But we all agreed that the chicken took a back seat to everything else. Even the one member of our party who'd ordered the rotisserie chicken felt that her chicken thigh just wasn't all that special: the flavors were mild, though the meat was tender with an appropriately crispy outer skin. It tasted fine; neither unfortunate, nor remarkable.
My Marie Curie chita seemed to be overpowered by the bbq sauce; the most prominent flavors were the the toasty pita bread, the sauce and the pineapple. My girlfriend's Nelson Mandela similarly stood out not for the chicken, but for the bread, beans and corn chips. the potato bowls were mostly two large scoops of mashed potatoes with comparatively anemic wisps of meat and gravy.
It's rather striking that a restaurant whose very name emphasizes rotisserie chicken would seem to downplay its theme ingredient on the menu. For example, where there should be chicken sandwiches, we instead saw burgers, pot roast, falafel and pork tenderloin sandwiches (which all looked good). They do reserve the pita segment of their menu for chicken, but the portions on our chitas just weren't enough to compete with the other assertive ingredients.
Revolution's decor even lacks the chicken theme one would think would be pervasive. There are little-to-no visual queues that you're in a chicken joint anywhere. The Pleasant Ridge restaurant sports some very prominent windows --wouldn't it be great if some large rotisserie machines, whose contents were only used for display purposes, hung flush against a few of them, so that passers-by could behold the crispy birds in the window?
Revolution Rotisserie & Bar is a welcome addition to Pleasant Ridge not for the chicken, but for the other proteins featured on their menu. Go for the beer, pot roast and poutine, or perhaps the stunningly large pork tenderloin sandwich.