I hadn’t been to Thunderbird since shortly after it opened, and had enjoyed my visits then. I had heard since that the menu had changed a lot and was more toward a sandwich and fries genre, which wasn’t exciting me to try again. So when I heard they had gone back to a more interesting menu again, with someone new in the kitchen, I looked forward to going back.
We started with some cocktails because that’s their thing at Thunderbird right? So I had the Murder City Devil ($10) with two kinds of rum, Ancho Chili liquer, lime, grapefruit, and pomegranate demera (a sweet simple syrup). And it was on fire. Well, my lime was on fire. It was tasty—a little heat and a fair amount of acid and sweetness. I couldn’t drink more than one though and switched to wine after. One friend had the “Roppongi Sour” ($10), a lighter drink made with gin, Midori, lime, sugar, egg white, cucumber, salt and bitters. It was tasty too, although maybe a bit on the sour side for some. They do a nice job with cocktails here, and the cocktail service is speedy.
Since we were with friends so we started right off with an order of the deviled eggs ($2 each) of the day. Luckily they were with us, because hubby is hard to convince of deviled eggs on most days. According to the menu, the preparation of the eggs changes daily—on this day they were doing a smoked whitefish version and they were really, really outstanding. In fact, we ended up ordering a second order because we liked them so much (and because the kitchen was a bit overwhelmed and it was a little slow to get our food). They tasted extremely fresh and the eggs were cooked just right so the white wasn’t over hard and the filling was light and fluffy with just the right amount of the fish flavor and a fair amount of acid (lemon I am guessing.) These were the best deviled eggs I’ve had out.
They also brought us a plate of an item that was not on the menu—something they’re trying out I guess. They were crispy polenta sticks with a cheesy sauce. They were super crisp on the outside and very soft on the inside—a fun take on a version of a fry. I enjoyed them.
Sadly, I really wanted to try the chicken liver nuggets, but they were all out. Apparently they are very popular and they go through a lot. I still need to try them. We did try the pimento cheese grilled cheese ($9), the fried chicken ($18), the pork belly ($14) and two sides—the mac and cheese ($8) and the “Kill Lettuce” ($5). By far, the favorite was the pimento cheese grilled cheese. They give you a nice toasty sandwich filled with a pimento cheese and it’s is sitting on top of a mustard slaw with some bread and butter pickles. I really enjoyed the mustardy heat and acid from the slaw with the sandwich. I just wish I got to have more than one quarter of it—I would get this again.
The pork belly was pretty good as well-the meat tender with a decent amount of flavor. We kind of argued about how much everyone liked it. Some definitely more than others. The stuff underneath was a bit underwhelming for me. There was a waffle, collards and apple butter as well as a fried cheddar cracker. There was just not a good balance here for me with the sides, all of it was a bit sweet, but also a bit bland.
The fried chicken was the most disappointing for me. It suffered the fate of not very good fried chicken in that it was overcooked. The white meat was dry and the dark meat a tad rubbery. The sides here, biscuits and more slaw weren’t helping much. The slaw is good, as it was with the pimento cheese sandwich, but the biscuits were super floury and dry. They were crying out for some gravy to cover them. The crust on the chicken was nice and crisp and had some decent seasoning, but not enough to save the chicken inside. To be fair, the place was slammed, particularly the kitchen and I think they were a little overwhelmed.
Speaking of sides, we also got the mac and cheese and the “kill lettuce”. I really liked the kill lettuce, which is a bowl of nice fresh leaf lettuce topped with a warm vinaigrette with big dices of crispy bacon in it. The lettuce wilts down and the vinaigrette was pretty spot on with lots of, well, vinegar. This was a perfect balance to all the other richer dishes we had ordered. The mac and cheese was pretty solid with caramelized onions and green chiles, another good accompaniment to the other items, and honestly, I preferred it as a starch with the pork and the chicken.
The beignets we had for dessert reminded me more of doughnut holes than beignets, but they were tasty cinnamon and sugar coated doughnut holes and we enjoyed them.
Overall, we had a really fun time. The friends we took had never been to Thunderbird and really enjoyed the place—they have done a great job with the interior of the place and it always seems to have a good buzz. I’m glad to see the menu has gone back to the sort of “creative southern” cooking that they started with and several items were very good. I look forward to trying some other things soon. And as always, it’s a great place to get a cocktail.
1127 Shelby Street