Until recently you would have heard me bitching about there not being enough breakfast joints in Cincinnati. The complaint is unwarranted: there are plenty of places; I just wasn't looking hard enough.
Beyond the chains like IHOP, First Watch, Perkins, Bob Evans and Waffle House (bless you, scattered, covered, diced, peppered and capped hash browns!), there are local favorites like The Echo, Kellogg Country House, Blue Ash Chili, Gravy, Hitching Post, Pepper Pod, Honey, Sugar 'N Spice and the latest addition to our list, Bluebird Restaurant.
Bluebird is located in Norwood, a block from the police station. It's yet another restaurant we'd caught wind of from the inimitable, prodigious food blogger, The Food Hussy. It's also right next door to the recently opened, giant corner Walgreens. Prominent signs in the parking lot warn people that it's "Walgreens parking only," but we were daring and parked there anyway. Suck on that, corporate America! There's a rear entrance to Bluebird accessible via Walgreen's parking lot, so one would think the two businesses would play nice with each other. One would be wrong, I suppose.
As we approached the door, a thin, weathered cliche of a waitress stepped out to catch a quick smoke. I love the distinctive smell of "old building," and this place had it as we walked inside. We continued into the vast dining room when another odor soon filled our nostrils: fresh brewed coffee. Our stomachs growled defiantly.
Seating is made up mostly of a long line of booths, with a few tables and a rounded bar facing the kitchen. There was a wall-mounted jukebox at every booth; for a quarter you could play a song from their collection of mostly 50's and 60's music and country.
Finished with her smoke, the waitress greeted us warmly and asked what we'd like to drink. My girlfriend was lured by the coffee, while I was curious if they served sweet tea. "No," she said, "But I can make you some." I looked at her for a few long seconds, puzzled. She'll make me some? Since all I could envision was her pouring a glass of unsweetened tea and then, with a wink, stirring around a few packets-full of sugar tableside, I declined and opted for water instead.
The menu is terrifically exhaustive: there's everything from chicken wings, fries and quesadillas; several homemade soups; a half dozen salads; Cincinnati chili; burgers, hoagies and sandwiches; comfort food like meatloaf, country fried steak and liver & onions; as well as a vast array of breakfast items, ranging from eggs, goetta, hash browns and home fries to french toast, grits, breakfast burritos, omelettes and pancakes.
My girlfriend chose the "#1 breakfast," consisting of two eggs over easy, hash browns and a half order of biscuits and gravy. She also got a side of grits. I ordered the "tall stack" of four pancakes and a side of bacon, also adding a side of grits to my order.
Our grits arrived first, piping hot and creamy. I'm not enough of a grit connoisseur to be able to reliably distinguish between slow-cooked and instant grits, but these tasted quite good. They needed neither butter nor additional seasoning, but I added them anyway out of habit.
Our breakfast entrees were soon on the table and I immediately realized the foolhardiness of my choice. I should have gotten the "short stack" of only two pancakes, not the "tall stack" of four, because these bad boys were huge. I drenched them with liberal streams of syrup and got to work. I thought the pancakes were fluffy and delicious, but when I gave my girlfriend a bite, she told me they were a little dry. She also didn't like her biscuits and gravy, noting that the biscuits were dense and hard instead of fluffy. I agreed with her on the biscuits, but enjoyed the peppery bite of the gravy. She loved the taste of her eggs, grits and hash browns.
After polishing off most of my girlfriend's biscuits and gravy as well as my bacon, grits and three-quarters of the pancakes, I finally called it quits. Thankfully, this would prove to be the largest meal of our day.
Will we be back? Probably. The food is good and the price was certainly right: less than $17 for both of us. We still think Sugar 'N Spice has the best breakfast in town so far, but who knows: there are still plenty of breakfast joints out there, waiting to be discovered.
Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)