Farewell to Bird Café, closing Friday: a Cowtown restaurant with an artist’s soul

May 18,2020

See full Star-Telegram article by Bud Kennedy here

The good times end Friday at Bird Café, a downtown Fort Worth restaurant full of history and pride but not always full of customers.

Bird opened in 2013 in a landmark. Its 1889 home at 155 E. Fourth St. is one of the few Sundance Square buildings that were already standing when outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid took refuge here and walked the streets.

Dinner will be served through Friday in the lovingly restored interior, lined with classic American art from late Fort Worth artist twins Scott and Stuart Gentling’s “Birds of Texas” series.

But sometimes, the concept didn’t live up to the setting. Bird’s recent lunch and dinner platters worked, drawing back customers who didn’t have the time or taste for the original gastropub “small plates” menu.

When Dallas restaurateur Shannon Wynne was asked to design and manage the space facing Bass Performance Hall, he knew what he wanted: a combination of the city’s rich history and love for the arts.

“I wanted to install the Gentlings, and with the Victorian architecture, I think we created something a little bit modern but also classically Fort Worth,” he said last week.

The 6,400-square-foot restaurant stretches from the old Land Title Building into a second restaurant space in the then-new Commerce Building, and across two floors.

When Bird was announced, Wynne said, “I think patrons of the Fort Worth art scene will dig it.”

He worked closely with the Gentlings’ sister, Suzanne, on the art and chose custom tile for the walls and floors while restoring the original stained glass windows. He also coated the bar with birdseed and spray-painted it platinum silver before adding a sealant.

“It was a giant undertaking,” he said.

Wynne already knew the building. For 18 years, it had been the first home of his Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, which moved to larger restaurant and patio space a block away.

The opening of Sundance Square Plaza brought new crowds, and Bird’s 2,300-square-foot patio was drawing customers before the coronavrius pandemic closed off the plaza and silenced downtown.

“My hat’s off to Sasha for the way she’s created new interest in downtown and the plaza,” Wynne said, referring to Sundance co-owners Ed and Sasha C. Bass.

“It was really picking up when the virus hit.”

Sasha C. Bass said Bird “is such a gem.”

“That building is so special,” she said, adding that she hopes Sundance’s managers replace it with “chef-driven restaurants that have soul.”

Both she and Wynne said they hope to find another place in Sundance to display some Gentling works. The brothers also painted the ceiling of the Bass Hall, and their works also hang in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Bird was an after-show party venue for Bass Hall performers and particularly for contestants at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which returns next June.

Bird was booked for the June 12, 2021 Cliburn closing party, Cliburn events director Kay Howell wrote by email.

“We are sad that we will not share this great event with Bird,” she wrote.

“They have been wonderful partners, as have Sundance and Bass Hall.”

If you’re going this week, Bird is operating at limited capacity inside and with fewer patio tables. Some menu items may run short.

Popular dishes include the roast chicken, pimiento-bacon burger and shrimp diablo with jalapeno gravy.

It’s open at 4 p.m. for dinner or takeout; 817-332-2473, birdinthe.net.