Eats Beat

Bird Café in Fort Worth has a new chef. (But he’s not new to Fort Worth or Arlington)

Brian Olenjack posed with his shrimp-and-grits and cider-glazed pork loin at now-closed Eagle Mountain Tavern.
Brian Olenjack posed with his shrimp-and-grits and cider-glazed pork loin at now-closed Eagle Mountain Tavern. Star-Telegram archives

Chef Brian Olenjack is back in a downtown kitchen, this time as the new executive chef at Bird Café.

You might see him if you’re downtown Saturday for ESPN “College GameDay.” Bird will open at 8 a.m. Saturday for brunch.

Olenjack, a former Reata Restaurant and Renaissance Worthington chef, is a big hire to make the big updates planned at Bird, the showcase restaurant on Sundance Square plaza opposite the Bass Performance Hall.

“We’re real excited — he has a big following. We’ve been trying to get someone really good,” said Shannon Wynne. founder of Bird, 155 E. Fourth St.

Bird opened in 2013 as a gastropub and brewpub similar to Meddlesome Moth in Dallas, but patrons going to downtown events wanted more dinner choices,

“We’ve gotten away from the small plates — we want Brian to keep what works and make the rest of the menu better,” Wynne said.

Bird is part of a new Sundance Square plan to promote dining and new ideas for the plaza, Wynne said. Bird also has been doing birthday parties and weddings, he said.

His specialties — brunch, spicy dishes like shrimp-and-grits and heaty Texas fare — fit Bird perfectly.

For Labor Day weekend, he’s doing a special 14-ounce ribeye with roasted wild mushrooms, mashed potatoes and asparagus.

Olenjack first came to downtown Fort Worth in 1996 as the first non-native Texan chef at Reata, back in the early days of contemporary “cowboy cuisine.” (He’s from Chicago.)

He shifted to the Worthington and the hotel’s old Chisholm Club steakhouse and restaurant, then took his spatula to Arlington and opened the popular Olenjack’s Grille, a busy Lincoln Square restaurant and gameday hangout when AT&T Stadium was new.

Since Olenjack’s closed in a dispute with investors, he’s worked behind the scenes consulting on menus at successful restaurants like Social House. He also did the menu for the short-lived Eagle Mountain Tavern.

He also was the chef in Reata at the Backstage Club during the Stock Show rodeo.

Recent Bird chef Kyle Baker has joined Gemelle and chef Tim Love’s staff.

Bird Café is open for lunch and dinner daily; 817-332-2473, birdinthe.net.

Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 15 Texas Legislature sessions. Since 1985, he has also written more than 2,000 “Eats Beat” columns about Texas dining, restaurants and food.
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