Jan. 16 was opening day for Dead Bird Brewing’s (1726 N. Fifth St.) brunch menu (10 a.m.-2 p.m.). Co-owner Nick Kocis says they weren’t sure what to expect in terms of diner turnout. Much to their surprise, only two hours into service the state’s only vegan brewery had to switch to its regular menu because brunch had sold out. “We were definitely blown away,” says Kocis, who adds that when they started the brewery’s buildout in 2018, a kitchen wasn’t in the floorplan. But by making a cooler smaller, they were able to fit a kitchen with the intention of doing a “little menu of snacks,” says Kocis.
Founded in Madison in 2015, Dead Bird is known for high-ABV beers using locally sourced ingredients. While the kitchen is limited in size and scope (with just two induction burners and one convection oven), the food menu is surprisingly robust – and, like everything else here, plant-based. It features various street tacos, poutine, loaded nachos and small plates such as blistered shishito peppers with house-smoked paprika aioli ($3-$15).
The brunch menu mixes it up with more Mexican and Southern influences like chilaquiles, verde wet burrito, Rae’s chicky & a Biscuit (the biscuit made in-house), a classic breakfast sammie, biscuits & gravy, and a Southern waffle ($9-$14). That Southern waffle is something Kocis is particularly excited about, a corn-buckwheat creation served with brown butter maple syrup and fruit compote. The chicky & a Biscuit combination starts with a Rae’s biscuit (named after an employee with mad baking skills) and features plant-based egg, maple “chicky,” beer cheese and tomato onion jam. You can also add vegan house sausage to the sandwich for a slight up-charge.
While Dead Bird’s drink focus is decidedly foamy, they’ve got a menu of boozy and nonalcoholic cocktails including mimosas, a loaded bloody, a brunch cocktail flight, and a nonalcoholic cocktail flight featuring a virgin mary, orange mint fizz, seasonal fizz, and Pilcrow cold brew coffee. “I wanted some [mocktails] for people who aren’t drinking alcohol and don’t just want coffee or orange juice,” Kocis says.
While the food menu is still being tweaked, you might find more savory options in the future and/or longer serving hours for the brunch menu. For those wanting to try the regular menu, that’s currently available on Sunday from 2-6 p.m., as well as Thursday-Friday 3-9 p.m., Saturday noon-9 p.m. and Monday 3-9 p.m.