Grazing: First Look: Sauced

Ria does retro in Inman Park

Let's start with the obvious. Ria Pell, owner of Ria's Bluebird and Patio Daddy-O BBQ, is a character. She has an obvious attachment to – what shall we call it? – retro blue-collar aesthetics. Before she opened the Bluebird, she briefly operated a restaurant in Little Five Points where the décor was literally meant to replicate a mobile home's.

I'm never sure whether Ria is really invested in this look or views it as camp, an aesthetic that takes pleasure in dubious taste that is highly exaggerated for comic effect. In any case, her new restaurant, Sauced (753 Edgewood Ave., 404-688-6554), draws on the aesthetics of the late '50s and early '60s and is her best-looking venue yet, with only a few campy flourishes.

The woodwork was done mainly by Ted Bodnar, formerly general manager at Creative Loafing. The walls are paneled with salvaged wood that reminded me of the dens of my childhood homes. But there are indeed campy flourishes on the walls, from a bar mural of drunken pink elephants to flea-market taxidermy finds such as framed antlers and a fish. Copper mallard ducks take flight on the back wall. Giant table lamps warm the rear room. Sounds awful, but it works.

The most pleasing effect to me is the curvy banquettes. They increase the sense of coziness in the two dining rooms, where the lighting resembles firelight. There's a full bar. However – warning! – Sauced does not accept credit cards. Yes, it's cash only. There's an ATM machine in the dining room, but if you don't bring cash and don't have a debit card, plan to wash dishes. I don't much like this growing trend toward accepting cash only, but I remind myself that it keeps the banks from collecting its bloated fees from small businesses.

I've visited Sauced twice during the first two weeks of its operation, so this is definitely a first look. I should note, too, that I know Ria and one of her employees there, so I was recognized. The staff generally is courteous and friendly. I might mention that we were seated before speakers in the rear during both visits and that made hearing difficult. Our server, otherwise delightful, tended to mumble and I kept turning to Wayne and barking, like a man whose hearing aid has gone dead, "What? Can you understand what he's saying? What did he say?" Wayne couldn't make him out, either, but is better at nodding and pretending to hear.

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(Photo by James Camp)