ATLANTA -- On the surface, Ria's was a diner-- maybe, just a diner. But a diner that impassioned its patrons.
"The brisket. If that was my last day on earth, that's what I'd eat," said J. Christopher Arrison, a patron.
"My favorite was the french toast," said Kimberlynn Oliver, who works in a nearby salon. "Once I had my first dish, I was hooked."
The diner owed its flavor to its namesake. Chef Ria Pell lent a larger-than-life personality to Ria's Bluebird Café -- and to an entire neighborhood. Her restaurant set the stage for this community's resurgence.
"I think it's amazing she took this street, which is not the most inviting place, it's gray and industrial, and she made a place where everybody likes to go and feels at home," Arrison said.
"This was like an anchor in the community. And all this sprung up all around it," said Thomas Pearson, a patron.