East of Carthage on US Highway 136 lies a spot that locals have come to love – The Dirty Bird Bar and Grill. Its moniker is derived from a nickname used by patrons of the former Peacock Inn.
According to Kyle Kirby, Dirty Bird owner and Western Illinois Electrical Coop. member, the Peacock was a popular spot for locals, and everyone was disappointed when it closed. As luck would have it, the former restaurant went up for sale the same time Kirby was looking for the next step in his career.
“It was always my goal to own a restaurant or bar,” says Kirby. “Being from a small community, it’s always meant a lot to me to keep stuff like that going. I know people were excited to see someone turn it back into a restaurant.”
Kirby previously worked as an assistant manager and general manager at another restaurant. He says he has always wanted to own a restaurant and felt ready for the challenge when the establishment went on the market.
He closed on the property in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic closed everything. Kirby looks at it as a blessing in disguise.
“I think if it wasn’t that I couldn’t open, I would have rushed the opening and not gotten everything done like I wanted it,” he explains. “Not being able to open worked to my benefit. I was more intentional and had extra months to perfect it.”
Kirby credits the local lumber yard for helping him get things done to his specifications, and the community helped as well. The additional time also gave him the opportunity to better train his four cooks and four servers.
The Dirty Bird is known for its pork tenderloin sandwiches (fried or grilled), which Kirby sources from Farmhouse Meats in Carthage. Other popular menu items include the burgers and chicken strips. Everything is made from scratch, including the pickles. They hand bread everything, including the fried mozzarella sticks, onion rings, pickles and mushrooms.
Thanks to popular demand, wraps were recently added to the menu. They come in six varieties – crispy or grilled chicken, fish and pork, or the Fresh Wrap, a vegetarian option that includes sliced eggs and a variety of vegetables and a dressing of choice. The Hangover Wrap of ground beef, scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese and tomato is served with homemade cheese sauce.
For those who love chicken strips, a word of warning – these are not the small ones found at your favorite fast-food restaurants. Each strip is the size of half a chicken breast and come in orders of two or three, naked or tossed in barbecue, Buffalo, sweet chili, garlic parmesan or teriyaki sauce.
If you can find room for dessert, The Dirty Bird offers fried cookie dough and the Brownie Delight, a warm brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauce.
Kirby says he has been blessed to have so much local support during COVID-19. “We are fortunate our business has stayed pretty strong. Folks have really reached out and purchased gift cards, hoodies and t-shirts and we did a lot of takeout business when the inside seating was closed.”
He has plans to put in a sand volleyball court and schedule live music for the outdoor pavilion as the weather warms up. “It’s nice to have people outside. They can spread out a little more and use the patio or come hang out inside if the music or noise is too much for them.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are busy, so plan accordingly. It is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner but close from 1:30-4 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday when it is the slowest. Watch Facebook for daily specials.