It’s a glorious time to be a foodie in Fort Worth. The plethora of interesting, innovative restaurants just keeps expanding. The latest is Bird Café, local restaurateur Shannon Wynne’s new eatery and bar. Just walking distance from the new location of his Flying Saucer downtown, the Bird, located in the historic Land Title Building, is far west of his Meddlesome Moth, the Dallas gastropub whence the Bird gets its concept and some of its menu items.
There are three seating areas, including a bar and an upstairs area called The Rook, where our trio was seated recently. One of my dining companions remarked that things have changed quite a bit since this location housed the original Flying Saucer.
“You know, the upstairs used to look like a bordello,” she said. The current Rook is blessedly not the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and not burdened with stuffed fowl on the walls either. The art –– prints of lifelike paintings of birds –– is by the legendary Gentling twins, Stuart and Scott, who painted commissioned portraits for U.S. presidents and dignitaries and whose work was often compared to that of John James Audubon. (The back of the Bird’s menu contains a wealth of information on the twins and their art and also on the building.)
Although the Bird also offers regular-sized entrées, our table decided to focus on the giant selection of shareable plates. On the recommendation of the hostess, we tried the Fig & Pig: a plate of stone-ground grits covered half in pork belly, and half in sweet fig preserves, with a little blue cheese. The grits would have been excellent on their own, but adorned with the chewy, succulent bits of pork and fruit, they were elevated from something simple to something amazing.
The tandoori lamb was wonderfully spicy, curry-flavored goodness in a neat sausage-like package. The four ladyfinger-sized skewers of meat were served with some fiery hummus and possibly the best tzatziki found outside of a Mediterranean restaurant.
Bird Café’s version of bangers and mash features elk and wild boar sausages on top of a mash of root veggies (mostly sweet potatoes) with a few crisp sweet-potato strings on top. The mélange was accompanied by scrumptious house-made stone-ground mustard. We couldn’t really tell one meat from the other. Both were tasty, though, and not too greasy.
On to the roasted quail, because we had to have some bird at Bird Café. Four little breasts and wings came out in a dainty cast-iron pan atop a celery root purée augmented with huckleberry jelly. Usually, quail is so difficult to eat that it’s not worth all the work for the small bites of meat. This quail was hearty, savory, and fork tender, practically sliding off the bone. After we were done with the meat, the mash and sweet-tart huckleberry jam made for one tasty little after-meal treat.
There was only one disappointment. The kale caesar McMillan salad was as inventive-looking as the other dishes, with shavings of parmesan cheese and two huge pumpernickel tuille-type croutons, but the kale was pretty bitter, and the dressing couldn’t compensate.
We ordered six dishes at the outset. The error in our plan was revealed when we’d finished our fifth, and our sixth, the bone marrow, had yet to appear. Was it even necessary? No, but, damn, it was good. Luscious, with capers and a salsa verde that was almost Italian in flavor, the marrow was as soft as room-temperature butter and just as spreadable on the lightly grilled toast points.
The dessert menu featured a hazel-nut pavlova. Finding this meringue-crusted delight in a restaurant these days is as rare as a hipster sighting downtown. The slightly sweet and crispy crust was filled with an airy, hazelnut-and-coffee-flavored cream and then covered with hazelnuts and caramel. It was a great, light luxury that left us all happily full.
One small flaw in the dining experience: Although the shared plates are generously sized for two or three people, they’re about the cost of a regular dinner someplace less fancy. And the food comes out as the various dishes are ready, which means that you’ll eat at a pleasant pace but not necessarily quickly.
155 E 4th St, FW. 817-332-2473. 11am-10pm Sun, 11am-12am Mon-Thu, 11am-2am Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Fig & Pig ……………………… $12
Caesar McMillan …………… $10
Tandoori lamb ……………… $13
Bangers and mash ………. $14
Roasted quail ………………. $16
Roasted bone marrow ….. $9
Hazelnut pavlova …………. $8