Merced County Times Newspaper
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Rainbird announces reimagined menus, new executive chef


Rainbird, located in the heart of downtown Merced in El Capitan Hotel, debuts expanded hours and refreshed menus by newly appointed Executive Chef Evan Morrison on Friday, Jan. 19.

The dining destination, which originally opened its doors in February 2022, is transitioning from prix-fixe tasting menus for dinner and brunch to daily a-la-carte breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings.

The refreshed menus will continue to feature artisanal fare, wine, and spirits that pay homage to the ranchers, farmers, cheesemakers, bakers, distillers, and winemakers that have re-fashioned Merced and the Central Valley into one of California’s best kept epicurean secrets.

“We are excited to partner with Chef Evan on the evolution of the Rainbird concept,” said Robin Donovan, Managing Director of El Capitan Hotel. “Our dedication to provide the best of the Central Valley to our community and beyond has never been stronger, and we look forward to welcoming both returning and first-time guests to experience what’s new at this special dining destination.”

Executive Chef Evan Morrison joins the Rainbird team off of a four-year stint working as an executive chef for The Boat Company and Alaska Dream Cruises in Sitka, Alaska, following other stints in Savannah, GA and Southern California. Considered one of the most important and diverse agricultural regions globally, California’s Central Valley presents Chef Evan with a vast palette of local flavors and ingredients to curate thought-provoking and seasonally inspired dishes.

As executive chef of Rainbird, Morrison aims to treat these quality, hyperlocal ingredients with respect using thoughtful cooking techniques that allow each component of a dish to shine.

Rainbird – whose name represents the regional bird’s unique migration patterns that signal the coming of rain and a forthcoming, bountiful harvest – will continue to take advantage of hyper seasonal produce from local and regional farms including Humble Rice Farmer, Sweet Arnold Farms, Burroughs Family Farms, and Way of Life Farms, to name a few.

Menu highlights include:

  • Ricotta Pancakes — Homemade blueberry compote, pistachio crumble, meyer lemon zest, whipped butter, maple syrup
  • Caramelized Custard French Toast — Famous Rainbird Farro Sourdough dipped in egg custard, then caramelized with cinnamon sugar, topped with macerated strawberries, whipped butter, and maple syrup
  • Crispy Duck Confit – Slow cooked leg quarter deep fried until crispy, atop butternut squash puree, ancient grains, dressed local greens, and pomegranate molasses
  • Foraged Wild Mushroom Risotto — Roasted wild mushrooms with creamy risotto, Grana Padano, red wine reduction, and fine herbs
  • Harris Ranch Boneless Ribeye — Chargrilled 12 oz. boneless ribeye, gorgonzola butter, roasted asparagus, frites
  • Vadouvan Butternut Squash Bisque — Granny Smith apple, pumpernickel croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dill oil, sumac
  • Roasted Beet and Chevre Salad — Arugula, roasted hearts of palm, orange, roasted beets, goat cheese, crispy spiced chickpea, pomegranate vinaigrette


Rainbird’s wine program — which received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence in 2023 — features both domestic and international purveyors with inspiration from the region’s vibrant wine history. With a heavy focus on local and regional craft winemakers, the restaurant’s selection includes nearly 75 varietals sourced from the surrounding Central Valley, Central Coast, and Sonoma/Napa regions.

As part of the exploration of these regions, special attention has been given to the Rhone varietal producers who have pioneered quality and artisan winemaking in the area. Additionally, Rainbird’s artisan cocktail program features a selection of beverages inspired by Central California’s seasonal produce, curated to complement Chef Evan’s cuisine.

Located at 609 West Main Street, on the ground floor of El Capitan, in downtown Merced, Rainbird will be open daily for breakfast from 6:30 to 11:30 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m., with brunch on select holidays. Reservations can be made online at

Centrally located in Merced — known as the “gateway to Yosemite”— Rainbird and El Capitan are just over a two-hour drive from Silicon Valley and a four-hour drive from Los Angeles, and are located in the city’s culture and performing arts hub.

For more information, visit the website:

The El Capitan Hotel offers three other distinct dining experiences all reflective of California’s Central Valley, including Native Son for coffee, light bites, and cocktails; EC Courtyard open seasonally for cocktails and shareable bites; and the historic Mainzer Theater, an exciting entertainment venue and restaurant, located just down the block.

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