Freebird Bar and Grill
#69, Street 240
+855 23 224712
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Cambodia has a thing for American-style bars. My theory is that they exist to make mostly-male-expats feel slightly more comfortable: something about a place with license plates and movie posters on the walls and TGI Friday's-like red lighting makes em' feel like they're not in a small and mostly ignored Southeast Asian outpost. This is where Free Bird on tourst-friendly Street 240 comes in.
Free Bird is American and wants you to know about it - it's like walking into a Chilis or something, down to super friendly (and cute) Khmer waitresses, beer on tap, really high tables with barstools attached and dark, reddish lighting.
The menu hits all the American classics, along with some Italian and Mexican food (also American) - there's biscuits and gravy, chili dogs, pretty good cheese burgers, burritos, pizza, and even, so help us God, make-your-own-hotpockets. And buffalo wings. Can't forget the buffalo wings. Most main courses come with a choice of two sides, and portions are generous, in the best American tradition. Prices are moderate by Phnom Penh standards, as is to be expected with foreigner food.
The food is only OK, but I think Freebird functions more as an exercise in ambience than a culinary adventure. It's a comforting place for the American set. Even I admit to needing a little rank Americana in my life sometimes.
They do have pretty good ground beef crispy tacos, which come with pico-de-gallo, sour cream-like substance, and pretty good refried beans with cheese. It satisfied my occasional, embarrassing, Taco Bell cravings.
A chicken quesadilla, the perennial classic, good if you're suffering from some sort of goddamn stomach parasite, as I have been for what, two months now? For some reason, Cambodian restaurants have not grasped that a quesadilla is generally a food that can be picked up, and doesn't need to be eaten with a knife and fork. All right: the filling was an odd, finely minced combination of chicken, cheese, and beans, in a very soft flour tortilla.
My boyfriend rated as acceptable the chili dogs and the sloppy joe, though he did complain to me (in this hilariously aghast voice) that there were vegetables in the sloppy joe, what kind of obscenity against God is that? I suppose you have been warned.
The cute Khmer waitresses are incredibly friendly and constantly, feverishly replenish your complimentary supply of salted peanuts with deep- fried garlic and a dash of sugar, which is far more delicious than it sounds.