I’d have to say that for me, The Third Bird was an acquired taste. As a fan of Kim Bartmann’s Café Barbette, I anticipated good food, comfortable ambiance, and maybe a little quirky style and ambiance. So the first time we went there, on a Saturday night last winter, I was disappointed.
Wait. Disappointed is too strong. The food was good. The vibe of the restaurant was energetic. The service was fine. But part of why we went there in the first place was to try it’s bison burger, which had been getting rave reviews, including from my wife. Much to our chagrin, we were told that the burger wasn’t available that evening. I think that the server could have handled the situation more diplomatically. But we left fairly nonplussed.
I can’t really explain why I decided to try it again for lunch this spring. I guess I was still curious and certainly was willing to give it another try. But over the course of three lunches in March and April, I’ve gotten over my initial concerns and have become a fan, at least for lunch.
Each time I’ve been there, it’s been later than normal for lunch. I arrived after 1 p.m. and found myself almost alone in the restaurant. That would be a negative for some diners. But I didn’t mind. I guess after years of business travel, I’ve gotten used to eating alone anyway and I used the lack of distractions to focus on the menu, the food, the wine, and the ‘groove’ of The Third Bird.
Lunch 1: My server informed me that there had been a substitution for the fish entrée listed on the menu. It sounded good, so I ordered. It was pan roasted trout with thin sliced, pickled radishes, tender herb shoots, peas, and slices of sautéd turnip. It was simple, light, and delicious. It was a little pricier than I expected ($21), especially since there was nothing else on the plate. But I’m a big fan of trout. It’s not easy to prepare well, and this lunch was great. I also had a glass of rose wine - Côtes de Provence Clos Cibonne Tibouren 2012. It was a nice reminder that spring was on the way, despite Loring Park being covered in late March snow.
Lunch 2: Having had a good experience on the first lunch, and now being more familiar with the menu, I planned a lighter lunch for this visit. I opted for the parmesan omelet. The omelet is cooked flat, not folded over. The flavors were great - buttery eggs and pungent cheese. It was served with a simple salad on the plate with the omelet. I had a glass of white wine with this lunch. The menu listed it as Jacquere Vin De Savoie Abyme. I don't know if that's the grape and the region, but it was very good. It may have been a bit over chilled when served, but by the time my food arrived, it was the right temp. It was bright and acidic and very fresh. It went very well with the omelet. It also was a very generous pour, probably 6 ounces (maybe more).
Lunch 3: Now I felt I was on a roll, and I was looking forward to the third lunch toward the end of April. This time, I had my mind made up before arriving; I was going to order the legendary bison burger. But, oops, I waited too long. My server informed me that the bison burger was no longer a regular item on the menu. They would have a burger on the menu all the time. But the bison burger would take a turn in the rotation, and it was not available that day. Well, I came in planning to eat a burger, so I ordered the one that was offered that day. It was a double patty stuffed with cheese and topped with crisp fried onions. The burger came with a small bowl of a very good barbecue sauce. There’s no way you could pick up the burger and eat it like a sandwich. I attacked it with fork and knife, dipping it in the sauce (though the burger was so moist and flavorful that it didn’t really need a sauce). The burger, like all sandwiches on the menu, comes with malt vinegar chips. For a $2 up-charge, you can get fries, greens, or soup. I stuck with the chips. I considered ordering beer with the burger. But the wine list at The Third Bird is very creative, and so I ordered a glass of red wine instead. I had a robust Montepulciano, recommended by my server.
So the food and wine experience for lunch was very good. Since I was there late and without many other diners, the restaurant was very calm and laid back. I don’t know if that would still be true during a busier lunch time. Certainly my one dinner experience was a more energetic vibe. But at least for my three lunches, the servers were all very friendly and helpful. I like the ambiance of the restaurant. And each time, there was some very appealing music playing over the sound system. My favorite was my second lunch. The mix was mostly classic rock and roll, but with some more contemporary rock mixed in.
Now that I’ve gotten over my initial hesitancy, I’m eager for a return visit for dinner. I see that they have music occasionally. That might be fun to try.