3416 Adams Ave.Normal Heights619-255-2491 www.blindladyalehouse.com
Blind Lady Ale House started on a soccer field, where Lee Chase, a local craft-beer superstar, first met fellow player Jeff Motch, co-owner of a local design studio. Both guys, along with their wives, had been independently mulling new business ideas: for Lee and Jenniffer, a bar and bottle shop; for Jeff and Clea, a gourmet-food store. They stayed in touch, and a few months later, a space opened up in a 1920s-era building in Normal Heights. Two ideas became one, the two couples became partners and Blind Lady Ale House was born.
In a short time, they converted what was once a French café into a handsome-looking space of salvaged wood and brick that feels immediately comfortable, a place that's not quite a bar or a restaurant in a traditional sense, just somewhere to eat and drink well during meal-time hours or in-between.
Blind Lady Ale House often refers to itself by the acronym “BLAH,” a misnomer because the place is anything but. The salads are complex and flavorful enough to be mini-meals, and the pizzas, which had a shaky start, now boast the best-textured crust in town. For $6, the spinach salad is satisfying, with chopped dates and bacon and shards of pecorino, plus a crunch from pickled shallots and almonds. The plate of seasonal sliced citrus, avocado and pecans is dressed with a chili vinaigrette that's good, if a little too spicy and oily. The Caesar, topped with white anchovies (gentler in flavor than the salt-cured ones), comes with my food equivalent of kryptonite, a deliciously soft-yolked egg.
Through some local food connections, the owners found chef Aaron LaMonica, who'd worked in a bunch of reputable farm-to-table and fine-dining spots but came to this kitchen to make less fussy food with just as much care. For instance, fresh artichokes are hand-peeled and then marinated to top the chorizo pizza, a mix of the house-made spicy sausage with Anaheim chilies and two kinds of nutty-flavored melting cheese.
A lot of the ingredients are locally sourced or made in house, and there are plans to regularly make cheese, too.
My beloved runny egg also appears at the center of one of the specialty pies, which is generously sprinkled with bacon, spinach and sweet caramelized onions. It's breakfast and a midnight snack in one; I've enjoyed leftovers of this pizza on both occasions. Rapini, a slightly bitter green, works perfectly with the richness of the house-made sausage, though a friend's little boy who shared a slice with me didn't agree. He did love his kid's pizza though, ordered off the “Kids” portion of the menu. To families: Blind Lady is very kid-friendly, though not in the scary way. Many kid-appropriate places have insipid food and, woefully, no decent beer. Thankfully that's not the case here.
The relatively small but very well-chosen beer selection is a food-friendly mix of local brews and other craft beers from around the nation and beyond. Frequently on tap is Lee's first Blind Lady original, Automatic #1, a Belgian ale that he brewed off-site and named after the Automatic Venetian Blind Lady, one of businesses that used to occupy the Wilkinson Building space and was obviously also inspiration for the restaurant's name.
There are occasional specials and desserts, and a couple of snacks beyond the pizzas and salads—marinated olives and a nice cheese plate—though I could use something with a bit more substance to munch with my beer if I don't want to commit to a whole pizza. Still, there is something to be said about choosing a couple of things to get good at and sticking with that plan. It's true in life, and definitely true for food. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.