Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Restaurant 3: Blue Bird Cafe

RESTAURANT: Blue Bird Café
LOCATION: 625 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA
DATE: April 9, 2005
FOOD: Vegetable Potstickers with Peanut Dipping Sauce; Fried Mozzarella Sticks; Sweet Potato and Apple Soup; House Salad; Crab Cakes with homemade tartar sauce, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables; some of Libby’s Fettuccine with Shrimp, Feta cheese and Pea Pods; Make Your Own Smores
BEVERAGE: Blue Bird Martini; Three glasses Pinot Grigio; Shot of vodka; Decaf coffee
PRICE: $63.00

When I was in college, Blue Bird Café was the place I would always go with my parents when they came to Charlottesville. It’s nice without being pretentious or stuffy and the staff is welcoming and engaging without being overbearing. And as for the food, I’ve never been disappointed. The cuisine is standard American, with a few innovations popping up here and there, usually as specials.

So Blue Bird was the logical choice for Libby and me in our attempt to surprise her sister Bennett on her 21st birthday. And while our surprise went off about as well as Joe Lieberman at an Eminem concert, we had a great meal all the same.

We started, as all 21st birthdays should, with cocktails. I figured I’d order my usual Martini, but after perusing the special cocktail list, I decided on the most manly (or should I say least feminine) drink on the menu, the Blue Bird Martini. I ended up with a bright blue mix of Absolut and Curacao glowing with gender ambiguity, but tasty all the same. Libby and Bennett both opted for spiked lemonades which were deceptively smooth. We followed drinks with a horde of appetizers, including some rather unremarkable mozzarella sticks and vegetable potstickers accompanied by a peanut dipping sauce that wasn’t as much a dip as just straight chunky peanut butter.

But while the meal began with average fair, it improved dramatically with the arrival of the sweet potato and apple soup. I had ordered the soup (listed as a special) almost as an afterthought, following mild prodding from Libby. However, one bite confirmed that I had found the star of the evening. Pureed to a perfect consistency, the soup hovered in that middle utopia of cream based soups in which both oatmeal thickness and watery thinness are avoided. Shavings of apples added the right amount of crunchiness to the mildly sweet liquid velvet that was warmly satisfying in a way few things outside of hot chocolate can be. When both Libby and Bennett tried it, their faces lit up and then melted into “oh god this good” expressions of happiness. It was truly the type of dish that one craves for weeks (if not months) afterwards.

Entrees followed, as Libby and I then split some meaty crab cakes with the essential home-style “Blue Bird” mashed potatoes (which I get every time I go), and an order of the shrimp fettuccine, which was excellent, coated nicely in salty feta cheese. To end the evening, we ordered the “make your own smores” and I have to admit, there’s a certain satisfaction in not just constructing your own food at a restaurant, but also getting to light it on fire. All in all we celebrated in style.

Blue Bird Café is the type of place where you can feel comfortable with anyone, no matter their food preferences. It’s the type of place where no one looks at you funny when you use mashed potatoes to support candles for a rendition of happy birthday or when you order vodka shots as the companion beverage for graham crackers and marshmallows. It’s the type of place that’s well worth going to and I’ve never been sorry when I have.

I just wish I could get some more of that soup.

RATING: 7.0/10

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