2014 is crowded with new restaurant openings in Fort Worth, so many that you need a spreadsheet to keep track of them all. The first one out of the gate: Bird Café, located in the new Sundance Square Plaza in downtown Fort Worth, which opened on January 5.
If this first new restaurant of the new year is any indications of good – Fort Worth diners and visitors alike are in for a very good 2014 indeed.
The brainchild of restaurateur Shannon Wynne, whose other North Texas properties include the Flying Saucer and the Meddlesome Moth in Dallas, the restaurant takes over the space previously occupied by Flying Saucer (before the Flying Saucer moved into the space previously occupied by the 8.0). Bird Café has kept the exposed brick walls from the original spot, but pulled out the sprawling beer bar that used to be here and brightened things up considerably. (There is still a large bar area, in the posterior room, where you can sip a cocktail while you wait for a table to open up. Alternately, you’d be wise to make a reservation.)
The menu is designed for sharing, with smaller, lower-priced plates, and a mixture of the familiar and the adventurous. We started things off on our recent visit with the Winter Burrata salad, which features a mound of creamy burrata cheese atop a tangle of vinegary frisee, along with cubes of roasted squash, pickled shallots, pecans and currants. From there we moved on to one of the mussels bowls. There are five to choose from, including Catalan (featuring Spanish chorizo) and Thai-style (with coconut milk and red curry), though we opted for the classic Belgian preparation, which features lemon, butter, and fresh thyme. The Prince Edward Island mussels were unusually plump, and the accompanying broth was light but comforting – an ideal winter’s night choice.
Those who have visited Wynne’s Meddlesome Moth in Dallas will recognize many of the items from that menu here, including the rabbit pot pie. Indeed, our favorite dish of the night turned out to be one that's also a Moth specialty: a beautifully prepared, nicely garlicky steak tartare, topped with a raw quail egg, and served with lightly buttered pumpernickel toast. It’s one of those dishes that reminds you of the singular drawback of shared plates – namely, that sometimes food is so good that you hate to have to share it with anyone.
The Happy Hour set should also take note: Bird Café has an extensive wine and beer list (would you expect anything less from the folks behind the Flying Saucer?), as well as more than a dozen specialty craft cocktails. Whiskey and bourbon hounds that we are, we tried both the Hell’s Half Acre (Eagle Rare 10 year bourbon, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and orange bitters) and the New Deal Old-Fashioned (Bulleit Rye whiskey, orange cordial, cherry brandy and bitters). Both were excellent, though the Old-Fashioned is the one we’ll be returning for again very soon.
With Del Frisco’s Grille already open and Taco Diner coming soon, Sundance Square Plaza is off to an extraordinary start. And while it’s still a little too cold out to fully enjoy the outdoor plaza, we have a feeling that once it warms up, it will be elbow-to-elbow in this corner of downtown Fort Worth.