The Third Bird had been on our list for a while. Lucky for us, we picked a beautiful day to sit outside on Third Bird’s nice outdoor seating area facing Loring Park. It also provided a perfect vantage point for making sure I could run to my car parked at an unpaid meter before I got ticketed. Points for that. Additional points for the logo. Since the Big 10 can no longer have their old logo with the 11 hidden now that it has 164 teams, I’m glad there are other places still using that type of branding.
The animals with the human faces, however, were a tiny bit unsettling.
Seeing as it was a pleasant spring evening, we all dipped into the specialty cocktail menu. While the bar service was a little pokey, the drinks themselves were delicious.
Making drinks that are boozy without being overpowering is a subtle art, and the Third Bird’s bar staff nailed it.
The favorite of the bunch was Brad’s wacky gin/citrus/basil/pepper drink, which had a general flavor profile I had never tasted before. Sorry, that was a little pretentious, let me try again. *Ahem* DRINK GOOD. IT MAKE MOUTH HAPPY. The person who brought us our drinks also spilled a little bit of one of them, after which he said “oopsies”. You can get away with a lot of things with a good oopsies, which was definitely the case here.
Next came a round of soups. Chris, Matt, and I went for the roasted cauliflower (hard to pass up given FDC’s history with cauliflower) and Brad went for some French sounding soup, which was very suspicious for a restaurant self-described as “New American”. Either way, both soups were tasty. Nothing spectacular, but a really nice start to the meal. After that, we had our server (Jessie) walk us through the menu, most of which was meant for sharing (score!). She also described a Monday night special where the regular patrons got an opportunity to order what the kitchen staff would be eating that night. However, that option turned out to be fried chicken, and since we were all still recovering from our experience at Revival, we passed on that. We ordered a bunch of stuff and let Jessie and the kitchen staff plan the courses for us. Jessie mentioned that she had basically ordered the exact same set of dishes with her parents the night before, which boded well for our meal.
For course numero uno, we had a beef tartare, “pearls before swine”, and asparagus. When we were going through the menu, Jessie mentioned that the beef tartare was the best in the city, which is strange because every place we’ve been so far where we’ve ordered tartare (and it’s not a small number) has claimed the same thing. There must be some sort of weird Minneapolis culinary inside joke that I am not a part of. It was very similar to other tartares we had, so I guess if they’re all tied for first it wasn’t necessarily an untrue statement. And now I think I get the joke!
I was excited to try the pearls before swine, which is basically liverwurst spread with caviar on top of some toast (luckily it tastes much better than it sounds). Brad, Matt, and I previously had this dish at Iron Fork, but they ran out of the caviar when we reached Third Bird’s booth so we didn’t get the full experience. The restaurant version was infinitely better. It had salty, crunchy, savory, sweet, and yummy components all in one bite. The cranberry spread and whole wheat toast were dynamite. A+.
Finally we have the unexpected star of round one: the asparagus. Hands down the best I’ve ever eaten. It was grilled perfectly, and then covered in this ridiculous goat cheese sauce. I can’t even put to words why it was so good. It just was, and I’m not going to question it. Chris, a self-described asparagus skeptic, said he didn’t want his full share because he wasn’t sure he was going to like it. Brad and I immediately jumped at the opportunity to get a little bit more (in the most Minnesotan way possible):
Drew: Mmmm…I am LOVING this asparagus.
Brad: I am enjoying this more than anyone else possibly could.
Drew: That’s not possible, because no one could enjoy it more than ME!
Chris: Screw you guys, I’m taking it.
Well played, Chris.
For the next round, we had a polenta, carrots, and broccolini. As we surveyed the second course, we noticed that Third Bird takes presentation seriously. Maybe having the meal in natural lighting helped, but everything that came out was supermodel pretty. For example, the polenta came with poached egg marbled with beet juice. I’m not a scientist, and that’s exactly why I was perplexed and amazed by it. The dish itself was tasty, if not a little unbalanced. There were crispy bits of ham buried at the bottom of the dish; the bites where you got some of that were delicious, but the bites without (i.e. most of them) needed a little something extra.
The carrots were carrots. Next!
The broccolini provided an interesting contrast to the carrots. Both were very simply done and cooked well. But for some reason I found myself wanting a whole lot more broccolini. Perhaps it was personal preference or maybe it was culinary magic, but I’m going with the latter because we were all super on board with the broccolini.
For our final round, we got the pork jowl, bison, and roasted chicken. We were all excited about the pork jowl, because our previous jowl experiences had been pretty stellar, and the idea of a pork jowl lettuce wrap with green tomato relish and buttermilk ranch sounded amazing.
Boy were we disappointed.
Maybe it was just the build-up in our heads, but this one missed the mark. The issue was the pork itself. It was a little tough, and didn’t really taste like it had been seasoned at all. The sauces were fine, but couldn’t make up for the underwhelming protein. It would be like if Katy Perry had lost her voice during the Super Bowl halftime show. No amount of Left Shark could have saved the performance. But maybe I’m not giving Left Shark enough credit. Man that dancing was amazing. All the people talking about Left Shark must have broke the internet that night. Like, that shark was so popular that Katy Perry tried to copyright “Left Shark”. How nuts is that? Also, maybe I’m out of line here, but I liked KP’s halftime show better than Beyonce’s.
What were we talking about again?
Next we have the bison. The meat itself couldn’t have been cooked better. I thought the whole dish, including the onions and shrooms that came with, were pretty tasty, too. The one issue, which everyone at the table had varying degrees of gripes about, was that the sauce kind of overwhelmed everything a little too much. The sauce, which was really vinegary (though not in a bad way), was used pretty heavy-handedly. The bison was cooked and seasoned well enough to stand on its own, so I think if the sauce was just on the veggies of that entree, we wouldn’t have had any problem with it. Like I said though, still really delicious.
Last we had the roasted chicken, which was far and away the strongest entree. The chicken was tender and juicy. The skin was crisped to perfection. The kale on the side added a nice spicy contrast. The gravy was creamy and complimented everything well (even though some of us went overboard on pouring it on). The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was the stuffing french toast things on the side, but everyone else seemed to enjoy those well enough. Not a Left Shark worthy-accompaniment in my opinion (ok, I’m done).
To cap off the meal we ordered a few desserts – a PB&J chocolate cake and a napoleon. The PB&J cake was awesome – I was a huge fan of the peanut brittle component. 10/10 would nom again. Other FDC members’ thoughts:
Brad: Chocolate tortes are my jam.
Chris: That jelly really wasn’t my jelly.
The napoleon, which I learned is a cream puff sandwich and NOT a diminutive French general attempting world domination (don’t know how I expected them to deliver me that), was also well done. I liked the what tasted like black pepper sprinkled on top, but I would choose the PB&J cake anytime.
On the whole, our meal at Third Bird was really solid. We did remark at the end of the meal that it would have been nice to have some of our veggie courses mixed in with the entrees (the items we ordered basically came out in the order they were listed on the menu), but that’s a very minor complaint as we were happy with basically everything, especially the stellar appetizer round. As Matt said approximately 6,000 times as we recapped the meal, “I would come back and get the soup, the asparagus, and the chicken,” and I couldn’t help but agree with our resident broken record. I’ll also note here that when I took a peek inside to see what an indoor meal would have been like, I would have been just as happy sitting in Third Bird’s inside dining area. Similar to their plating, everything was arranged in a really pleasant way, and I’m always a sucker for high ceilings. There was also a “DJ”, by which I mean a wild-haired woman fumbling with an iPod, that I very much enjoyed.
The only “issue” I can really think of is that Third Bird is just another in a long list of successful FDC meals. There are so many chefs dishing out some serious noms in the Twin Cities, and I’m starting to feel bad that it’s going to take a while for me to get back to all the places we’ve been. Needless to say, Third Bird has earned another look.