Ladybird Diner certainly knows how to tease.
It seems the entire town has been salivating over the idea of pie for months. When a restaurant has several thousand fans on Facebook and hundreds of followers on Twitter before it has even opened, you know they’ve hit a nerve in the community.
Hell, half the library staff had lunch there the first day of the soft opening, and it wasn’t even me who tweeted about the pie books.
— Lawrence Public Lib (@lawrencelibrary) August 29, 2014
Yeah. All of Lawrence had traditional diner food with a local flair and delicious pie this weekend. (Okay, maybe not all of Lawrence. But a lot of LFK did).
Ladybird Diner seems like you’re walking into something from the fifties. And while it could be kitchy, really, it’s just charming. The waitresses actually sewed all of their aprons. They’ve got glitter booths and stools and use jelly jars for their water glasses (for their mimosas, too).
And while their menu is classic, this isn’t greasy diner food you’d get in a truck stop. It’s good old-fashioned down home cooking. It’s also vegetarian friendly!
I went for lunch with my mom on opening day. Now, my mom is sort of known downtown. She’s become a local townie even though she’s only lived in Lawrence for about 6 years. Her regular rounds are to Liberty Hall, the video store, Love Garden, the record shop, Henry’s, where she get her hazelnut lattes, and then to all of our favorite lunch spots. She gets the inside scoop on everything, and almost always remembers it and repeats it correctly.
The word on the street is that Ladybird Diner has the same investors and a lot of the same staff as 715 Restaurant, one of my favorite spots for unpretentious but upscale drinks and food. I’m pretty sure it is true because Matt Hyde, general manager of 715, was helping out on Friday.
The atmosphere is great. They’ve turned vintage Pyrex mixing bowls into the lampshade and they hang above the counter, booths, and tables.
The exposed brick and tin paneled ceiling are charming.
Wouldn’t you know they have a real turntable, and the owner spins records in between topping off people’s coffee mugs.
The marketing has been spot on. The menu has delightful illustrations, and the cooks wear t-shirts that have cartoon pies on the back that say “do you want a piece of me?” TOO CUTE. Paired with the novelty of a diner that serves homemade pie, this seems like a recipe for success.
Of course, as long as the food is good.
For lunch, my mom had the breakfast platter. It came with eggs—they wouldn’t do poached, as she normally prefers them, because they have a griddle top and were understandably busy and didn’t want to get water boiling—and a meat, and she chose sausage after being assured it was Michael Beard meat (the guy who does the meat at 715) and chose cheesy grits for her side. Man, were those cheesy grits good! I never would have ordered them myself but I tested them and damn were they tasty. I also had her add a blueberry pancake because I wanted to compare. They were good. In fact, they may be the best blueberry pancakes in town.
Mom loved the sausage and said it was very flavorful. Which makes sense, since you can totally see the flecks of herbs in it. I took her word on it.
I ordered the migas. As the menu will explain, if you know, you know, if not…
Migas are basically corn tortillas in enchilada sauce with green peppers and eggs. They’re a traditional dish you’d see at Texas diners (or so my mom says). I ordered my eggs scrambled and again, damn. They were good. The sauce was spicy but not overwhelming and the peppers were tender-crisp. I chose hashbrowns for my side. Generally, I prefer the home potatoes style with my breakfast. Shredded hashbrowns can be soggy and mushy if not prepared properly, but at Ladybird Diner they were crispy without being overcooked. Score.
Ladybird Diner serves J&S Coffee and it was good—way better than typical diner sludge. While they don’t have fresh cream, they do have sugar in the raw on the table.
See how good those migas look?
REALLY. They were delicious.
We got pie, too, but alas, we had to take it to go. I had a taste of the filling before it went home with my mom, and it was delicious and rich.
Now, like I said, I went with my mom for lunch on Friday. Which means that Mister BS missed out on the affair. So, being the amazing partner I am, I took him out for brunch on Sunday.
He was excited. Or at least hungry.
He ordered the chicken fried stack with eggs over-easy and the cheesy grits. And he ate it all. So I’m pretty sure it’s good. When the full menu is available, I’m sure he’ll want to try the other traditional meals I never make, like the meatloaf and pot roast.
I had the migas again, because I had really enjoyed it on Friday and I wanted to see how consistent the restaurant would be. Presumably there was a different set of cooks working on Sunday. As you can see, it looks a lot different (It’s not just the iPhone photos versus my DSLR). I got black beans this time (which the menu did say came with the meal) and no green peppers, but tomatoes and more cojitas cheese and pico de gallo. There was also a lot less sauce. Both versions were good, don’t get me wrong, and it was a soft opening, so there’s the expectation that they are still working out a few kinks. But what makes a local restaurant beloved is consistency as much as quality. I’m hoping I get more sauce, green peppers, and the beans next time.
Yes, we had room for dessert this time. While the Mexican chocolate was divine—just the right amount of spice and heat, and not too sweet—the blueberry basil was possibly better. The crumb topping was perfect and the basil was subtle but made the flavor more complex. I’m not really a huge fan of pie, mostly because the crust often feels like wasted calories for me. But the crust was flaky, not soggy, and a good base for the delicious filling. Next time, I’ll probably try a milkshake.
I’d say that Ladybird Diner’s soft opening was a grand success—they ran out of pie and had to go buy more ovens to keep up with demand. After all the excitement building up to the soft opening, my verdict is it was worth the hype. I’m definitely excited to go back for the Blue Plate Specials to try the sweet potato and black bean hash, and I want to try the omelets and French toast, too. While I’ll still go to my other favorite breakfast spot in Lawrence, The Roost, this will also certainly be in our regular brunch (and sometimes weekday lunch, I mean it is around the corner from the library) rotation.
The people at Ladybird understand what Lawrence people want: quality food, friendly service, and pie. It’s a simple concept that is missing in the local restaurant scene, and I’m sure Ladybird Diner will be around to fill that gap in the LFK food scene for many years to come.
Ladybird Diner should be open 7am—10pm for the rest of the week, so if you’re in Lawerence, stop by and grab a slice of pie.