Three Birds: Duck, Duck, Crabcake?

The Miss Finger Lakes Pageant was held last weekend, and in accordance with the prophecy, our pageant team assembled and made the trek to Corning, NY, with crowns, sashes, stilettos, and appetites in tow. Rather than our usual Sorge’s dinner, we decided to try out Three Birds Restaurant this year, which also is on market Street, right in Corning’s Gaffer District. As previously, our home base of operations was the Radisson, conveniently located between the charms of Market Street and the pageant venue, at the Union Hall. They’re redone the rooms at this well-priced hotel since our last visit, giving them a more modern, clean aesthetic.

Three Birds is less than two blocks from the hotel, and maintains an elegant/eclectic aesthetic of its own. It’s warm without being cluttered, and enveloping without being too dark. Fellow diners called it intimate and relaxing, and I agreed. Our waitress was a little bossy and a little flustered by our condensed dinner timeline (we had a pageant to get to!), but redeemed herself by bringing an enormous basket of herbed white bread, both chewy and crusty, accompanied by an outrageously delicious dipping oil laced with rosemary, hot chile flakes, and parmesan cheese. The simplicity of these additions equaled more than the sum of their parts – this dipper is addictive and will make you eat way more bread than you would like.

A couple people at our table ordered appetizers, but I knew I didn’t want to eat that much on this night. I did taste Mom’s salad, and loved Three Bird’s take on balsamic vinaigrette – it was very dynamic, with a strong kick of black pepper. The salad was graced with some crumbled feta up top and a couple cherry tomatoes, but Mom said she wished there was some kalamata olive action going on there.

There are a bunch of steak choices on the menu at Three Birds, and quite a few at our table went in that direction. Joelle, sitting directly across from me, chose the teres major, which is a shoulder cut, and she topped it with béarnaise sauce after I explained to her that béarnaise, literally translated, means butter, butter, tarragon, plus a little more butter. She loved her steak, noting its tenderness and juiciness. The other steak lovers were similarly pleased, and everyone who had mashed potatoes on their plates groaned with happiness, because they were supremely creamy and well-seasoned. Unfortunately, the green beans, while crisp and buttery, were cold all around. I’m thinking these were plated first and allowed to cool before the meats were ready to be sliced and plated. A pity.

I struggled mightily with what to order – stuck between the duck and the carne asada and shrimp with smoked-paprika risotto. I settled on the duck, because I just don’t get enough duck in my life, and was very pleased with the pesto rub on it, though the menu’s promise of a roasted tomato béarnaise wasn’t something I even noticed. If you’re going to sauce me, really sauce me, man. Like, make it a verb, not a noun! Roasted tomato béarnaise sounds a lot more incredible than it was in this case. It was fine, but didn’t make the dish or anything. Anyhoodle, the duck was cooked perfectly (for me) medium, tender as can be, and quite savory from the pesto, and I also loved the mashed potatoes even though that’s not necessarily the starch I would serve with duck. My green beans were cold, like the rest.

Mamasan order the crab cake appetizer as her entrée. You know how that woman loves to pull this switcheroo – Lonna did it too, going for the ahi tuna special, and our waitress was less than pleased. Mom’s cake was excellent, with a very crunchified exterior, and an earthy corn base. Was there as much crab in this as I like in a crab cake? Not really, but it was delicious, nonetheless. The remoulade served on top was homemade, and she liked it, though she wished it had come on the side. It’s worth noting that, had the entrée list provided a crab cake option, Mom would have ordered it, but Three Birds’ only offered shrimp and scallop shellfish entrees, and well, sometimes you feel crabby.

There were also salmon and tuna dishes present at our table, but I didn’t sample them. Both got thumbs up, although I think Lonna’s tuna was rarer than she meant to order it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing to me, since I like mine raw, but she wasn’t thrilled. Despite the cold beans and the odd waitress, the lovely atmosphere and mostly pretty great food at Three Birds elicited high scores all around. I would definitely eat there again, if only because I’m dying to try that carne asada dish, and I should note that you can get your steak adorned with shrimp, scallops, lobster or gorgonzola for an upcharge. There are desserts as well, but we ran out of time and had to get to the pageant!

Lovely ladies
 I’m awarding Three Birds Restaurant an eight on the BHS scale. It’s above average but not quite truly excellent. That said, if you went whole hog and got appetizers, dessert, cocktails and the works, maybe it would be more impressive. Of Corning’s offerings, I’m definitely scaling it on the higher end of the spectrum, and I recommend you try it next time you’re in this darling small town in the Finger Lakes region of NYS. Another good place to hit up, if you’re of the younger female persuasion, is the delightful Posh Boutique, just down Market St. This little store is staffed with friendly, trendy hipsters and packed with even lovelier frocks, jewelry and separates. We took our teen titleholder, Joelle, there for some pageant shopping, and had a wonderful time chatting up the charming attendents. My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

Three Birds Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. Other than the shoots(corn or pea) sticking out of the top of everything the food sounds and looks pretty awesome...

    1. Yeah, I never get it when the garnish isn't edible, or doesn't have some root in the ingredients on the plate.