Hatching a success from the
heart of New Orleans
by Bill Rodriguez
554 Kingstown Rd. (Rt. 108), Wakefield, 792-8940
We discovered a neat new café recently, and it reminded me of the
numerous godawful restaurants that had come and gone in its vicinity. The
genesis of many of them had been a lot like the young Mickey Rooney jumping up
to pipe, "Hey, why don't we put on a show?" Only none of the chefs' friends had
the courage to pipe back, "Uh, because you can't cook very well?"
Open Mon, Wed,Thur., 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Fri, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.;
Sat, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
No credit cards
Personal checks accepted
How many breakfast places have never earned a third visit from you because the
bacon was incinerated or because the poached eggs were runny? One now-defunct
diner I visited sent me off shaking my head because of a tuna fish sandwich
whose featured ingredient was spread nearly as thin as the mayo.
Well, the Bluebird Café is the third eating establishment within about
a year in its location in Wakefield's Quo Vadis Shopping Center. But believe
me, it's bound to stick around.
Bart Shumaker is the cook and owner with his wife, Rhonda. Before returning to
his home state last year, Bart ran his first Bluebird Café in New
Orleans for nine years. Its popularity hatched a second one, and Bluebird
huevos rancheros helped garner a "Best Breakfast in New Orleans" award.
The refurbished café in Wakefield is bright and spiffy. Friendly. Local
artists have landscapes and floral paintings on the walls. The tables are
widely spaced, so conversations can be held in conversational tones. Counter
service makes the place a diner-type café, attracting clientele who
don't feel dressed up enough, or psychologically prepared, for table service.
And those huevos rancheros ($3.95) -- they deserve their reputation. Black
beans, not refried, are layered with two corn tortillas and topped with two
fried eggs. Lots of melted Co-Jack cheese is on top, along with a zippy
fresh-tomato salsa. Quite a tangy concoction.
My wife, Johnnie, declared the biscuit she had on the side as having the best
consistency she'd encountered north of her Shreveport grandmother's kitchen.
And other breakfast possibilities include something as simple as a fried-egg
sandwich ($1.75), or as crunchy-granola as "Powerhouse Eggs" ($3.25) scrambled
with tamari and nutritional yeast. A breakfast special might be as exotic as
spicy codfish hash with eggs ($5.95) or an omelet with mozzarella or feta and
sun-dried tomatoes ($5.75).
Breakfasts are served through lunch, but the hand-held fare later in the day
is certainly competition -- a charbroiler, their own sausage and peppers
sandwich ($3.50), a six-ounce burger of lean ground chuck ($2.95), a grilled
chicken sandwich ($3.25) juicy and tasty from its Dijon marinade. Their fish
sandwich is fresh (not frozen) ocean perch, and in their dreams
McDonald's should do so well by a sesame seed bun.
Recently, Bart started serving dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings.
However, he offers only two choices, besides the soup of the night, so be sure
to call ahead to see what they are. Given the cook's New Orleans background,
they are likely to run to jambalayas and etouffées.
Johnnie and I both did well the other evening, with the Creole chicken ($7.95)
and grilled chicken breast ($6.95). The former was a small half-chicken falling
off the bone under the okra-and-friends medley, although the "pilaf" was simply
rice with a few flecks of herbs.
The grilled chicken was moist and lightly infused with garlic and fresh
rosemary. It also was accompanied with rice, and crispy string beans with a
wonderful smoky tang. (This was after we'd shared a large portion of crayfish
corn chowder ($2.95/$3.95), rich with potatoes and chunks of crawdads swimming
in a thick, spicy roux!)
Of course, Ms. Louisiana-childhood across from me couldn't not try the
pecan pie ($1.75), which is made on the premises along with apple pie. I liked
it, because it wasn't overly sweet (a real accomplishment, considering that
Karo syrup is the main ingredient). And I know my wife liked it, too, because
when I asked for her verdict, she merely beamed and continued eating. No doubt, the bluebird of gustatory delight will twitter over this
place for a long while.