In my latest quest for outdoor dining in Southwest Michigan, I found myself in downtown Mattawan heading toward the modern-American restaurant, Bird Dog. Reservations were in high demand when I called a few weeks ahead of time, but I was able to secure an 8:30 p.m. time slot for one of their intimate igloos. Booking for one hour and 30-minute time intervals, these huts provide a safe alternative for gobbling up the local and fresh fare they are famous for, while also staying warm outdoors. Bird Dog, new to Mattawan in 2019, has quickly become a culinary hot spot and I was impressed to see how busy the restaurant was for a Tuesday evening.
As my companion and I exited our vehicle, we were promptly approached by a hostess who was clearly expecting us. She informed us that our igloo had a bit of a wait, as the previous party was seated a bit behind schedule and we wouldn’t be able to be accommodated exactly at 8:30 p.m. She offered us the option to skip the wait time and head inside to a table, but we politely declined. One of the charming attributes of Bird Dog is their intimate dining area with interactive kitchen and full bar, but we opted to wait for our igloo due to our caution for COVID-19.
Twenty minutes later, we found ourselves being led on a brief trek through the parking lot and into an area specially-zoned for outdoor dining. Three brightly lit igloos lay before us, the first two occupied, and we were invited into the third. Spacious and warm inside, we were provided with two small tables, four chairs, and a side table that held a small radio and hand sanitizer. We also were equipped with a portable heater that helped radiate much-appreciated heat on that February night. Overhead were twinkling lights with a garland of greenery that added an additional touch of romance and cheer.
As the night was quickly reaching 9 p.m., my dining companion and I were famished. Luckily, we knew ahead of time what we would choose to order, and we were able to give our server a list of everything we desired immediately. She was friendly and accommodating, and quickly returned with our drinks. I ordered a glass of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, while my companion ordered the restaurant’s spin on a French 75. This flirty cocktail is a mix of champagne, gin, and lemon sour — all garnished with a twist of lemon. It was dangerously delightful and I certainly had more than a few sips.
For an appetizer we unanimously agreed upon the barbacoa empanadas ($15). I was intrigued by this addition to the menu, and couldn’t wait to see how it delivered. I definitely was not disappointed. Four light and perfectly flaky pastries arrived quickly to our table, piping hot and stuffed with the most savory combination of slow cooked beef, potatoes, and spices. Drizzled on top was a duo of green goddess dressing and chili glaze — the perfect balance of tangy heat paired with a cooling component. The empanadas were also served on a bed of salad, which provided a surprising and delightful fresh crunch to the appetizer.
My date selected the George’s Bank Scallops ($28) for her meal, which was served on a bed of couscous-style pasta, garnished with pork cheek, and served with a lemon crumble. The portion sizes for this entree were astounding. We were both blown away by the sheer size of the scallops alone, and how perfectly seared they arrived. The meat was buttery and luscious, practically melting in our mouths. One bite had us absolutely smitten with the rich and silky flavor, and my companion remarked that she had tasted scallops all over the world, and that these exceeded all expectations.
A little-known fact about me is that I lived in Oklahoma for an entire decade. Oklahoma prides itself on all-things-beef and takes their steaks quite seriously. Because of this, I saw Bird Dog’s offering of a Snake River Farms Ribeye Cap Steak ($68) and I had to indulge. This captivating beauty was a Wagyu spinalis, meaning the most flavorful, most marbled, and most tender part of a ribeye steak. The butcher takes time to cut this selection of meat from the ribeye and then roll it, tie it, and slice it into separate portions of steak. The meat was generously topped with an onion jam and served alongside a heaping amount of herbaceous salad mix. Each bite of meat positively melted in my mouth. The addition of the onion jam was pure perfection and had me continuing to eat even though my belly was bursting! I simply couldn’t put down my fork, and my companion echoed my sentiments.
Bird Dog offers “sides for the table” in lieu of offering standard sides with each entree. On this evening we chose to order the cheesy potatoes ($8) and the cider-glazed carrots ($8). The cheesy potatoes arrived in an adorable soup mug and tasted exactly like a loaded baked potato style soup. They were gooey with cheddar cheese, crispy on the edges, and topped with crunchy green onions. The cider glazed carrots were a show stopper — a heaping pile of veggies so sweet you could swear they should be the dessert course. While these two sides were certainly delectable and memorable, our entree portions were so large they weren’t even necessary. We ended up taking almost all of the sides to go to enjoy later.
Fine dining such as this is typically done in a restaurant-stye setting, surrounded by fellow patrons, murmuring servers, perhaps even ambient music playing ever so subtly in the background. What is utterly remarkable about the dining experience at Bird Dog is being able to fully submerge yourself in the entire culinary adventure in complete seclusion. My date and I repeatedly acknowledged how strange and wonderful it felt to be able to fully focus attention on the journey set forth on your plate without the distraction of surroundings. The silence of our private igloo allowed us to feel entirely captivated by our entrees without restaurant style distractions.
If Bird Dog isn’t already on your list of Southwest Michigan restaurants to frequent, make note now. This establishment is busier than ever with their tantalizing brunch, lunch, and dinner menu and their options of dine-in or reservations for an igloo. Their dessert menu is also constantly updating and their social media presence is an excellent place to stay well informed on all new additions to their offerings. Pack up your appetite and head to Bird Dog in Mattawan for an unforgettable dining experience!
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