Photo courtesy Ruth Yaro
Despite its backdrop of stark white walls with blond wood accents, Bird & Cleaver doesn’t feel minimalist. The casual two-story restaurant in Fort Wayne’s historic Wells Street corridor has a homey quality, with hanging greenery, plenty of natural light glinting off whitewashed brick walls, and a small selection of deceptively simple salads, sandwiches, burgers, and brunch standards. Co-owners Lindsay and John Cheesebrew (nicknamed Bird and Cleaver, respectively) worked in the food industry for years, catering private events, hosting pop-ups, and publishing a Bird & Cleaver food blog. Specializing in food with fresh ingredients from local farmers, the two decided to open a restaurant of their own in this renovated 120-year-old home and load the menu with plenty of meat-free options. Vegan fried “chickn” gets a sticky kick from spicy sorghum; plant-based nachos are piled with seitan pastor, avocado, and pickled red onion; and the coconut curry udon contains crispy tofu in a curry broth.
Meat-eaters—the ones not converted by Bird & Cleaver’s Nashville hot vegan-chicken sandwiches—might order local Wood Farms burgers or short ribs. Both camps can unite over the Hillbilly Fondue Vegan Nacho Cheez. “We have people get vegan food on accident and are super excited, and we get people that are always going to get the burger,” says Lindsay. “We try to make sure that our menu is balanced for everybody.”
1603 N. Wells St., Fort Wayne, 260-494-3684
(Due to the coronavirus crisis, Bird & Cleaver has decided to close its doors until further notice. As they indicated in an Instagram post, “No carryout. Nada. Hopefully, it’s not for very long. The safety of our staff, and all of us as a community is our biggest priority!”)