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A reimagined Rainbird
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Rainbird is singing a new song in 2024. The downtown Merced eatery started the new year with expanded hours and refreshed menus by new executive chef Evan Morrison.

The dining destination, which originally opened its doors in February 2022 inside the El Capitan Hotel, transitioned in January from a prix-fixe tasting menu for dinner and brunch to daily a-la-carte breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. 

According to Kassie Nguyen, director of Community Impact for the El Capitan Hotel, the changes came about in an effort to better serve the Merced and surrounding Valley community.

“We did a bunch of research on our previous menu and found that only 5% of Merced could afford to eat here. With our new executive chef and this new concept of rejuvenation, we have changed it so that our goal is to hit at least 90% of Merced residents be able to eat here,” said Nguyen.

However, the idea of making the menu affordable for most local residents didn’t take away from the restaurant’s dedication to using the best quality food grown and produced in the Central Valley.

“The concept of farm to fork and working with our community partners and local farmers in Merced County is still really ingrained within our menus,” she said.

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. 

Chef Morrison joins the Rainbird team following 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, Georgia and Southern California. 

“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.”

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.

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.

609 West Main St., Merced, on the ground floor of the El Capitan Hotel

Rainbird is 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 on OpenTable or by visiting