Driving through Downtown Los Angeles, you could pass Birdies without even noticing. Tucked between an alleyway and a vacant old waffle house, it’s a tiny space that recently housed a chicken-and-waffles joint. But Birdies has taken over the frying game here.
In the alleyway (and thus, somewhat out of sight) is a mural that’s meant to portray what Birdies is all about: it shows Albert Einstein, with a spray can, tagging an equation of sorts: coffee plus doughnuts equals chicken-squared…or something like that.
Once inside you’ll find a few places to sit, but most orders are to-go—this area of Downtown is for locals and nearby lunch-goers (not to mention that parking is pretty difficult here as well). The simple menu is right above the colorful doughnuts galore displayed behind shiny glass. One of the signs describes the two different types of doughnuts—yeast and cake. Yeast doughnuts are the fluffy, chewy ones that have become commercialized in doughnut shops all over America; cake doughnuts are leavened with baking powder and crumbly, more dunkable, and denser, meaning they can hold heavy toppings. At Birdies, both kinds—even the most vibrantly colored ones—are made with only natural ingredients.
The flavors are on a steady rotation, and all are available to sample, with varieties—from s’more and Oreo confections to strawberry white chocolate and lemon-thyme pistachio—that put most other doughnuts to shame. The mind behind the menu is chef Jason Harley, whose inspiration came from “wanting to create something different, something new and unique.” It’s possible he was referring to Birdies’ 24-karat gold doughnut—made with real gold shavings and a cream cheese-Champagne frosting. It’s hard to tell if the $100 price tag ($1,000 for a dozen) is a bargain or not, but if you want to eat your money’s worth, this one’s for you. In the end, Harley says it all comes down to “making you feel richer as you take a bite.”
Birdies’ chicken also gets the star treatment: free-range, vegetarian-fed, antibiotic-free, and in the form of either fried-chicken sandwiches or chicken strips. Co-owner Keith Bae points out that “everything is extremely fresh, so the kitchen never stops running. The bread is baked every night for the buns, and even the doughnuts are all fresh—we don’t use a mix, everything is made from scratch.”
The coffee bar sits at one end of the shop, but you can order the drinks along with your food. All are made with Intelligentsia Coffee, like the Black Cat Espresso, which Bae describes as the “highest grade, highest quality beans.” Shots are pulled on a La Marzocco Linea Classic, and straight drip coffee and cold brew are also available to quench the spicy chicken’s heat.
For its ambitious future, Birdies already has its sights on another Downtown location, and while this first spot currently stays open till around 3 a.m., the goal is to build up to a 24-hour operation—the demand is definitely there in this booming neighborhood. In the meantime, the doughnut flavors will change seasonally, and the gold creation will get a rerelease in a more economical version, made with smaller flakes. Most importantly, the coffee side of things is taking flight too: the coffee bar will soon expand into the vacant space next door, and, Bae adds, the debut of their own Birdies brand roast is coming any day now.
Tatiana Ernst is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and photographer. Read more Tatiana Ernst on Sprudge.