Every day, people in America eat about 22 million chickens. It’s hard to come up with new ways to cook them.
Grilling and frying have been the basic preparation for a long time. And Brew Bird, a new restaurant in downtown Fargo, sticks to the basics.
Fried or grilled and dressed with a variety of hot sauces, they are generally served on a bun with a variety of toppings and recognizable sides making dinner at Brew Bird about as familiar to Midwesterners as a Labor Day picnic.
And for those not from the Midwest, it’s as good a historical introduction to “everyday” as you will find. That doesn’t mean dull. It just means you are likely to be acquainted with it already.
The menu is made up of variations on grilled and fried chicken breasts with your choice of… and here is where Brew Bird has nailed its customers. The menu is basic, simple and easy to digest. The variations from item to item are essentially in the form of glaze or toppings. The tray that shows up at your table is best described as assembled rather than prepared, as is the sandwich itself.
Four people at a table, if they were really close friends and inclined to, could order four different sandwiches and rearrange all the parts to cover a lot of the menu. The options are relatively limited, but the combinations endless. And the sauce bar adds another dozen variations.
The Fargo Hot ($8.59) and the Hot as Cluck (yes, culinary puns have become very popular in Fargo) are almost identical except one is a little bit spicier — spicier than clucking, apparently. Both start with a nicely breaded chicken breast, served so fresh and hot that this particular pair of modifiers already sets it apart from a lot of downtown cuisine.
The rotation of flavors applied to this basic recipe means you can be pretty sure of a decent sandwich that is dressed to your liking. You can experiment, but you don’t have to. And a relatively limited menu doesn’t mean limited flavors.
Although you are pretty much stuck with chicken, sides might take you a couple of visits to get through. For the unadventurous, the 3 Bean Hotdish ($2.99) is a fun take on baked beans with both pork belly and beef to fill it out.
Fried Brussels Sprouts ($3.99) are a nice preparation of what has become a fairly common vegetable in restaurants in the area. Fries and slaw, and mac and cheese, bring the side offerings to a fitting conclusion.
What makes Brew Bird an everyday option in Fargo is its simplicity and attention to a very basic menu with predictable flavors. And that may be enough to keep customers happy.
Service is just as basic. You order at the counter in the front of the restaurant and wait at your table. Beverages are picked out of a cooler up front so the option for a cold draft in a glass mug isn’t going to present itself.
The atmosphere doesn’t extend itself out too far either. It looks just like Border Cities repair and towing looked when it was still there before it closed in 2017. It’s sparse and bare and that makes it a bit noisy. But it’s comfortable and familiar in an "I-get-the-feeling-I’ve-been-in-a- place-like-this-before" sort of way.
One thing that has become clear: As Fargo stretches its culinary wings a little, “basic” has its appeal. You are not likely to be disappointed because you are not likely to be surprised. The menu, location and atmosphere hide nothing.
Address: 30 N. University Drive, Fargo
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Ratings (out of 4 stars)
Food: 3 stars
Service: 2 stars
Ambiance: 2 1/2 stars
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at email@example.com.