Restaurant Review: R Bistro & Pastry

Business is sweet in the small space along Fairhope Avenue that now houses R Bistro. The lovely, intimate little restaurant opened in March of 2011 and has become quite popular for delectable pastries and treats, as well as for their house specialty, crawfish gravy. The owners, Joe and Misty Rider, originally hail from Birmingham, but spent 15 years in Tulsa, Okla., before moving to Baldwin County. Joe created their signature crawfish gravy on a whim years ago.

Misty says that one Saturday Joe invited some buddies over for breakfast and decided to add crawfish to his cream gravy instead of the sausage he usually used. “The rest is history. We’ve been serving it ever since, ” she says. “People are buying it like crazy, by the pint, quart and gallon. You wouldn’t believe the things they say they serve it on – fried or grilled fish, steaks, chicken, baked potatoes, pasta, French bread, biscuits and ice cream – just kidding on the ice cream!” The bistro serves the gravy over rice, on their sumptuous shrimp and grits, and atop biscuits and crab cakes for Sunday brunch.

The restaurant also features a full menu of other excellent fare that Misty calls, “a little bit Southern coastal, a little bit French, a little bit Creole / Cajun.” The latter influence comes largely from Chef Rodney Ballard, the Riders’ nephew who trained in New Orleans and worked there before joining forces with his relatives. Not surprisingly, several of the bistro’s other best-sellers feature that Louisiana flair, including the gumbo, shrimp and corn chowder, crab cakes and crawfish beignets.

Then there are the desserts. Misty and daughter Maddie make all the sweets from scratch. “People seem to be really enjoying them, because we can hardly keep the case stocked, ” Misty says. The favorites: crème brûlée, peanut butter pie, caramel cake, Bama mud torte, tarts, macaroon puffs and scones. For those planning ahead for the holidays, the Riders say they plan to host a reservation-only New Year’s Eve dinner with a very special menu.

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On the Menu

Crab Cake
This ultra-moist cake, with a nicely crisped exterior, is lush with crabmeat and delightfully oniony. One of the best around, it is served with a roasted red pepper coulis and studded with capers and red onions.

Crawfish Gravy
R Bistro’s specialty, the home-style, white cream gravy, is not too thick, not too thin, nicely spiced and loaded with crawfish, served over rice by the cup or the bowl.

Grilled Salmon
Well-seasoned salmon, on a bed of Asiago-crusted tomato slices, is capped with several asparagus spears and a fun tangle of fried potato straws. It’s served with a lick-your-plate-good, basil-laced beurre blanc sauce.

Blueberry Chiffon Pie
A towering, airy, creamy confection of a pie comes laden with berries and pecans in a really good, moist graham cracker crust.      

R Bistro & Pastry 
11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tu – Th, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. F / Sa, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Su.
334 Fairhope Ave. 928-2399.

text by Sallye Irvine • photo by Ashley Rowe

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