World-class cooking meets family-friendly dining in Timnath’s Backyard Bird
Owners of fan-favorite food truck open first truly local restaurant
Many Timanth residents and visitors are loyal fans of the Backyard Bird food truck. This mobile eatery has taken the fried chicken sandwich to another level — the level that chef owner Matt Smith attained at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and in restaurants in Paris, Spain and California.
After relocating his family to Timnath six years ago, Smith became familiar with the local palate as head chef of Locality in Fort Collins and Door 222 in Loveland. Matt and his wife, Nicole, dreamed of opening their own restaurant, and the food truck was an important stepping stone in that direction.
“I wanted to try my own thing, and the food truck was the fastest way to do that,” he said. “It was good to get this under my belt, test out the menu and see how it was going to be received in the community.”
However, the food truck life was difficult, especially while still working for another restaurant. Matt didn’t have a single day off for four months. So when the opportunity finally came up to open a brick and mortar restaurant in Timnath near I-25 and become the Town’s first local restaurant, Matt and Nicole jumped on it.
Knowing they were located smack in the middle of thousands of folks’ morning commute, the Smiths added house-made donuts to the fried chicken concept, creating a decadent menu with fresh, local ingredients. After an incredible amount of hard work, they opened their doors to the public in February 2020—just in time for the world to shut down.
“It’s been challenging, but we were able to adapt and modify to make it work,” Matt said. “We were already set up for take out and delivery, so there wasn’t as much scrambling for us. But we went from managing and supervising a restaurant to being the ones that open and close and cook and clean.”
It helps that Matt has a great team—his family. Nicole adds her marketing and design expertise, and their oldest son washes dishes. On Monday, when the place is closed, the whole family goes in to help prepare for the week ahead.
While it may seem odd that a chef schooled in fine dining from California would choose Timnath as a home, Matt wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Everybody who lives in the area has the same mindset and goals—it’s a safe community where people really do care about one another and are supportive. Our kids can play outside and we know our neighbors care about their welfare and safety and fun,” he said.
Matt and Nicole spend any free time they stumble upon supporting their children in their various local sports programs and enjoying the Timnath community.
“Moving to Timnath from California has been the best decision for our family that we could’ve made,” Matt said. “I’m actually jealous of the lives our kids have. It’s the childhood I wish I had.”