Flock to Law Bird for the cocktails but stay for the food
Chef Tyler Minnis, formerly of Angry Bear Kitchen, has continued his creative roll throughout the pandemic
Google “pandemic rut” and those words will lead you to numerous cited articles from sources as varied as Forbes and NPR. None of these stories show me staring at the TV while wearing pajamas and not writing a novel, but many could have. Here’s what no such article could show: Tyler Minnis, the restless and creative chef whose latest gig is at Law Bird, a terrific bar with top-tier cocktails.
Minnis, who honed his serious-yet-playful cooking chops as a chef-owner of the late, lamented Angry Bear Kitchen, has been busy during the pandemic. His nonstop, non-rut activities include: temporarily transforming The Market Italian Village into Dairy Dose, a nouveau-psychedelic DQ-esque eatery with fancified fast food; launching — with the owners of Law Bird — the down-home-goes-uptown Boxwood Biscuit Co. as a pop-up and then as a full-fledged restaurant; matriculating to Law Bird when the culinary ambitions of that hip Brewery District tavern grew to better match its stellar beverages.
A hangout popular with industry insiders, Law Bird occupies a stylish, moderate-sized space with big windows, plants, whitewashed brick walls and blonde wooden tables above a slatted wooden floor. Amusing touches enliven the convivial room, such as a magenta neon sign declaring, “NOT GOVERNED BY REASON.”
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The main attention-grabber is a sizable bar, adorned by navy blue tiles, where there’s a whole lot of shakin’ going on. The sophisticated drinks created there have sui generis names and often contain more than five ingredients (some uncommon), but ordering is facilitated by accurate shorthand menu descriptions. Besides, you can’t go wrong because Law Bird’s cocktails — such as the Tropic Thunder (“herbaceous daiquiri”; $13) and Pepe Silvia (“tropical boulevardier”; $14) — are among the best in town.
Deal-seekers are rewarded with tiny-but-mighty mini martinis ($5), the Higher Love ($10; think bittersweet adult soda pop) and the nifty Snack Pack ($7) — an inspired, house-concocted amaro paired with a seven-ounce Miller High Life. (Note: This shot-and-a-beer combo, like several items in this review, appears only on the “snack time” menu available on Wednesdays and from 4 to 6 p.m. on other days.)
Multiple ingredients go into Law Bird’s fun, creative and delicious dishes, too. Among the varying selection was a vibrant and beautiful green goddess Persian cucumber salad ($12) whose ripe tomatoes and candied orange peel offset its surprisingly spicy, crushed-and-crunchy embellishments.
Enhanced with chermoula and za’atar, Law Bird’s smooth hummus ($12 for a huge serving) was one of the best — and best-looking — versions I’ve had in months. I also loved the snack-sized shrimp cocktail ($6 for three large, sweet shellfish elevated by candied lemon and a lickable curry-tamarind cocktail sauce) and a wildly decadent take on cheese fries: A heap of superior, waffle-style spuds and a doorstop wedge of buttery and addictive Delice de Bourgogne cheese ($14).
Gilding the lily is part of Law Bird’s irresistible charm, so I barely cared that those potatoes had over-the-top truffle and honey accents. I could say something similar about the hot honey-drizzled “little biscuit” — a $4 steal of a fancy small sandwich with a wonderful fried oyster and prosciutto-like ham. Tip: It’s even better eaten with the excellent mixed pickles ($4).
Decked-out with per-peri, sambal cashews, green goddess, pickled leeks and Japanese plums, the chicken skins ($6) evoked innovative nachos made with pork rinds. While great-tasting, I wanted the skins to be crisper.
I could hardly have wanted more from the garnish-happy hot dogs and standout corndogs (Wednesday-only specials; $5 and $6 respectively). Anchored by thin but juicy and garlicky wieners (or just-as-good veggie dogs), they receive an avalanche of flavor-bomb toppings — like local tomatoes, plus avocado, sriracha dust, everything spice and sauerkraut — that make those Chi-town dogs seem shy. And they're another reason why you might come here for the cocktails, but will be glad you stayed for the food.
Where: 740 S. High St., Brewery District