Dan Butler’s BlueBird brings breakfast, lunch happiness

Pam GeorgeHeadlines, Charity


The BlueBird, Dan Butler’s latest venture, includes a ricotta tartine among its offerings for breakfast and lunch.

Dan Butler is unafraid to take risks.

In 1991, the Culinary Institute of America graduate opened Griglia Toscana in Trolley Square.

BlueBird Dan Butler

Dan Butler

At the time, most Italian restaurants served red “gravy” and meatballs. However, Butler offered artisanal pizza from a wood-burning oven, grilled veal and hard-to-find risotto.

He wasn’t afraid to mess with success; he’s tweaked Toscana several times. It’s now Piccolina Toscana.

In 1998, Butler opened Deep Blue Bar & Grill in a struggling downtown dining district. It is now Tonic Seafood & Steak.

His newest venture, The BlueBird, opened April 30 in the WSFS Bank Center at 500 Delaware Ave.

That’s right—it’s named for the bluebird, which is a symbol of happiness, harmony and renewal. Butler and managing partner Brian Walsh hope their guests find all three in the contemporary café, which currently serves breakfast and lunch.

And if dinner creeps into the offerings in the future, that’s a joyful sign as well.

BlueBird Dan But;er

Dan Butler’s new BlueBird restaurant on Delaware Avenue offers a light-filled space.

BlueBird fills a gap

The Bluebird is in space formerly occupied by a PureBread Deli location and owned by Buccini-Pollin Group. (Butler has had a longtime friendship with developers Chris and Rob Buccini.)

Initially, Butler wanted to open a bakery that Toscana’s pastry chef would manage. But when his pals heard he was looking for sites, they asked him to tour 500 Delaware Ave.

The Buccinis wanted a unique eatery in the vacant space, especially since they plan to redo the plaza out front.

With 60 seats inside and another 60 possible in the plaza, the location has the numbers to interest Butler and Walsh.

While construction was underway on The BlueBird, Butler had to make a decision: He already had a pizza and sandwich stall in The Chancery Market & Bar at 1313 Market St, and he didn’t want two operations close together.

He opted to leave The Chancery and move the staff to the café.

Dan Butler The BlueBird

This South for the Winter Bowl is among the offerings at The Bluebird.

Menu mainstays

Like most breakfast spots, The BlueBird starts with coffee, and in the new café’s case, it’s Lavazza, an Italian brand. Other beverages include chai or matcha lattes and teas.

Assorted baked goods include bagels, croissants and some unexpected selections: maple-pecan-butter Danish, leek-parmesan pastry, Margherita pastry and spinach-and-feta pastry.

Recently, the online ordering form indicated that the blueberry, chocolate and corn muffins were hot commodities; they were sold out.

Other morning options include quiche, breakfast sandwiches and the intriguing duck hash, made with butternut squash, mushrooms, baby kale and sundried peppers, sauteed with dush confit and topped with two poached eggs.

For lunch, guests can choose from sandwiches, bowls, salads and tartines, as well as an open-faced sourdough base with toppings.

Since Butler expects area residents to stop by multiple times a week, he plans to feature gluten-free and low-sugar options for the calorie-conscious.

That said, so far, high-calorie options have outsold salads and bowls.

“We wanted to offer choices for people to make healthy decisions,” he said, “but so far, they’ve eschewed those decisions.”

Room to expand

Butler understands that downtown restaurants are still smarting from the work-from-home trend. Employees are returning to the office, but the process has been slow.

He’s hoping that more businesses institute a four-day workweek.

Meanwhile, The BlueBird’s eye-catching lights, furniture and size make it the perfect venue for special events. Since Butler’s Toscana already has a catering division, you might see the lights twinkling at night for parties and perhaps dinners open to the public.

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One might wonder why Butler doesn’t rest on his culinary laurels.

“I love the excitement,” he acknowledged. “Opening a restaurant is really a creative outlet. It’s fun planning and making decisions. Since I succeeded with Toscana, I’m always thinking about what might come next.”


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