Mei Lin has been waiting for the day when her Arts District restaurant Nightshade can reopen, but with the current coronavirus pandemic closing dining rooms for the foreseeable future, the 2014 Eater Young Gun and Top Chef winner doesn’t know when that’ll happen. Instead, she’s been working on Daybird, an affordable, casual counterpoint to her more composed sit-down restaurant, serving fried chicken sandwiches on milk bread buns initially inspired by her popular Szechuan hot quail dish.
With a projected opening date of early-to-mid August, Lin compares the move somewhat similar to Momofuku’s Fuku fried chicken sandwich restaurants, saying “not everybody has made the rounds to come in [to Nightshade]. I wanted something that’s really approachable. Everybody loves fried chicken, so it’s like getting a taste of Nightshade.”
Lin’s sandwiches feature crispy fried chicken thighs covered with Lin’s own spice blend and breading, and available in three distinct heat levels. In addition, she’ll serve chicken tenders, a vegetarian-friendly hot fried cauliflower, french fries, and coleslaw along with her version of a comeback sauce, habanero sauce, and hot honey. Drinks like iced milk tea, plus sides like cornbread and pimento cheese, round out the menu, which will be available via takeout and delivery at first. The strip mall space, located on the borders of Silver Lake, Westlake, and East Hollywood, does have some room for interior seating, but that won’t be available until it’s safer to open that up. Lin is opening this restaurant with her Nightshade partner Francis Miranda.
With Nightshade closed for over three months at this point, (it did serve takeout for a brief period right when the pandemic broke out in March), Lin is champing at the bit to get back in the kitchen and cook: “I’m super excited to work, to be honest. I have no idea when Nightshade will reopen.”