Bird & Co.
539 Deering Ave., Portland
Did you know Woodfords Corner is experiencing a cultural revival? At least, that’s what some out-of-state newspaper or glossy magazine proclaims every year or two, so it must be true, right?
In reality, the development of this off-peninsula Portland neighborhood into a dining and arts destination is still very much a work in progress. (And let’s be real: when someone in the pay of Condé Nast calls Woodfords “one part Brooklyn to two parts Maine,” I think we can all agree they’re full of shit.) That said, over the last several years a handful of restaurants have helped turn this convoluted corner of Forest Ave. into a reliable alternative for diners seeking to avoid the Old Port and downtown crowds.
Bird & Co. opened on Deering Avenue in early 2019, serving cocktails and a taco-centric menu that packed its noisy dining room every weekend. A year later, the pandemic hit and it all came to a grinding halt, but in the summer of 2020, Bird & Co. was among the first Portland restaurants to expand its outdoor seating, offering a social lifeboat for many locals.
Three years later, its wooden patio “parklet” still fills up quickly on sunny days and warm evenings, and these days they’re serving weekend brunch. My wife and I met some friends there on a pleasant, 70-degree Sunday morning and grabbed one of the last available outdoor tables.
First up, drinks. The hot coffee and cold-brew iced coffee ($4) were both strong and fresh. A Mexican cold brew ($11) made with tequila, coffee, Vespertino liqueur and coffee brandy was delightfully sweet and boozy. We also liked the zesty, refreshing Cadillac Jack ($11), with vodka, ginger, lemon and elderflower. The summer sangria ($10), however, tasted just like a glass of rosé, with barely a hint of fruit.
We split an order of Brussels sprouts ($12.50), which were nicely crisped but a bit under-seasoned. Pickled onions provided the necessary punch of acidity that was missing from the cilantro-lime vinaigrette. The accompanying jalapeno-garlic dipping sauce was creamy and very mild.
My wife ordered the Baxter salad ($15.50): arugula, pistachios, goat cheese and strawberries tossed in a sweet, tangy, strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette. On the side, she chose two breakfast tacos ($5.50 each), one with slow-cooked pork carnitas and one with avocado. Both were tasty, but needed a liberal sprinkling of salt and hot sauce to bring out their full flavor.
Similarly, my friend Jason’s chimichanga ($15.50) — a deep-fried breakfast burrito stuffed with chorizo, eggs, black beans, homefries, cheese and avocado — was delicious once he doctored it up a bit. Same with his wife Jennifer’s “hash dish” ($15.50): poached eggs over sweet potatoes, roasted poblano peppers, caramelized onions, goat cheese and avocado. In addition to more seasoning, she would have appreciated some crispy bits for texture.
I ordered huevos rancheros ($14.50). It was a solid execution of the classic dish that just needed a little salt and heat to pull it all together. The carnitas and black beans were rich and flavorful, and the quesadilla at the bottom was a nice upgrade from the standard corn tortilla. Unfortunately, both fried eggs were overcooked, so I had no runny yolk to mix into the sauce.
Despite a few inconsistencies, we all left happy and full. Given the warm fall weather we’ve experienced in recent years, and the city’s willingness to allow outdoor dining on public ways well into the season, I look forward to more sunshiny mornings brunching in Woodfords Corner before the snow flies.
Bird & Co. serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.