Turkey-based menu gets smoked as The Bird flies on 12
By Paul Goguen
The Bird restaurant recently opened in its new location at 4776 Sonoma Hwy. in Rincon Valley, occupying the former space of failed red sauce joint Basilico. The venture is the rehatching of the legendary Willie Bird, which used to nest in a forest of automotive-themed businesses on Santa Rosa Avenue.
New owner Joe Castro bought Willie Bird three years ago from the family of the late Willie Benedetti, who founded the original in 1980. The goal was to save the legacy of “The Bird,” as it was known to regulars, and the hope now is to make it even better. Castro, who has a successful background in competitive meat smoking and barbecue, is clear in his mission: “We are all about oldschool comfort food.”
The motto around here could easily be “Turkey: It’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore,” which was precisely why people used to flock to the original Willie Bird. Keep it simple with the ever-popular “The Bird Club,” or try “The Bird Special” for a flashback to thanksgivings of yore, complete with homemade gravy and cranberry sauce.
Get your drink on at the full bar, which includes a new arrival, the refreshing Chandon Garden Spritz. It comes in a diminutive bottle, consists of sparkling wine with orange peel bitters, and pairs well with both turkey and barbeque, which brings me to my next point. The new Bird has a wicked smoking habit that causes BBQ Fridays to sell out by late afternoon. A chainsmoked fourteen hour pork butt puts life in perspective, with brisket, ribs, and tri-tip all on offer if you get there before it sells out. Tri-tip sliders with Alabama white BBQ sauce or smoked, bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers go great with potato or macaroni salad, and are proven winners. The pizza oven is stoked for pie production, and there will be medieval favorites like oysters and drumsticks for sharing. If you say “jalapeño cheddar honey butter corn cake” really fast four times, they might give you some, but it is way easier to just order it.
Word is spreading through Oakmont of the culinary action at The Bird, and the response has been very positive. Check out the new 100 percent dog-friendly back patio and event space, where bands will be playing on Fridays (they better know Freebird) and beers will be flowing. More information is at www.thebirdrestaurant.com.