The food scene in Estes Park, Colorado, just got elevated to a new level. There’s a whole new twist on modern mountain cuisine in town. The place is Bird & Jim. Unique name right? It’s named after Isabella Bird and Rocky Mountain Jim. Isabella Bird was an English adventurer embracing the pioneer spirit in the early 1870s and was quoted as saying, “The mountain fever seized me,” when she first entered Estes Park. She is famous for her 1873 ascent of Longs Peak, although she was not the first female to summit. Anna Dickinson preceded her earlier that year and Addie Alexander and a “Miss Barlett” were the first females to summit Longs Peak in 1871. Jim Nugent, known as Rocky Mountain Jim, moved to the Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park area in 1868 as one of the first homesteaders. Their two lives intertwined in a mountain romance written about in Bird’s book A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains.
Restauranteurs Melissa Strong, John Witmer, and Jimmy Kuch carry on that pioneer spirit in Estes Park and teamed up to completely revitalize the old Sundeck restaurant on Moraine Avenue into the new hot spot attracting tourists and locals craving farm-to-table food.
My friends Adam and Suzanna took me to Bird & Jim’s and immediately I commented on the ceiling and chandeliers. The space is gorgeous and it looks like they used beetle kill pine in the construction of lifting the ceiling. In the kitchen, the philosophy is on local, sustainable, and healthy eating. Chef Ethan Brown sources from local farms and businesses such as Black Cat Farm, Tooey and Sons Organic Farm, Kind Coffee, and Scratch Bakery.
As soon as we sat down, Suzanna immediately said, “We have to have the Spicy Tuna Tacos.” The tiny tacos are so good, we ordered another trio after quickly devouring our first order. They’re made with ahi tuna tartare, cilantro, sriracha aioli, and topped with micro greens. I’m now like Suzanna, I’d go just for those tacos!
For an entree, I decided on the Rocky Mountain Trout. It’s prepared skin-on with heirloom tomatoes, baby artichokes, capers and charred lemon. I added a side of wild rice. It was SO good that I ate it all. Quite frankly, it was the best trout I’d had in awhile.
Suzanna went for Smoked Pheasant and Corn Chowder (which she let me taste and it was divine!) along with salad and Adam had the Colorado Lamb Bolognese. I don’t eat lamb, but Adam’s bolognese must have been fabulous because he almost licked the bowl.
Somehow we saved a little room to split a dessert. Their dessert menu is extensive and all of it sounds yummy. We went for a special of the night – pumpkin pie. It is November after all and pumpkin pie is fitting for fall. But, this wasn’t your regular pumpkin pie. They roasted the pumpkin, the crust was thin, the topping was crunching and the whiskey whipped cream sent it over the top. We all said we’ll just have a bite or two, well that turned into more like five or six each. The decadent dessert was perfect for sharing and a great way top off a delightful evening with dear friends in Estes Park.