After months of delay and a fairly impressive hype machine starting with a placement in the Wall Street Journal, Mei Lin’s fried chicken sandwich restaurant Daybird opened today at noon. Lin, who temporarily closed her James Beard finalist restaurant Nightshade due to the pandemic, had delayed the opening of Daybird for months as the pandemic raged on, but ultimately decided to open for takeout only today. She and partner Francis Miranda had originally announced an Daybird’s debut for some time in August 2020.
Just after 12 p.m., there was an impressive line of a few dozen people waiting for orders of Lin’s new fast casual spot. The bill of fare is extraordinarily simple: chicken tenders available from mild all the way to extreme spiciness, a fried chicken sandwich (in the same levels of heat), and french fries. Three sauces include habanero ranch, Daybird sauce (similar to comeback sauce), and hot honey. A side of pickles is available for 50 cents, and drinks include milk tea, lemonade, and a few sodas.
The chicken sandwich is certainly main draw, featuring a well-sized thigh shaped into a large oval with a portion sticking prominently out of the potato bun. The crunch of the fried chicken is probably its most notable feature, resembling Taiwanese-style Hot Star chicken, but even juicier. Spice levels seem intimidating, with its drier mix of Sichuan and other seasonings, but even the extreme wasn’t too challenging, meaning — given LA’s love of spice — the medium or hot levels should be fine for most Angelenos. A light cabbage slaw and pickles round out the sandwich.
As for the tenders, they’re a little less crunchy than the chicken in the sandwich, but offer a good enough departure for those that favor white meat. Quality fries are crisped to a golden brown and sized almost exactly like the McDonald’s side order from decades ago. With a little luck, they could become their own talked-about menu item on this truncated list.
Daybird plans to initially open from Thursday to Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., or whenever things sell out for the day. While the lines were lengthy on opening day, there was no one waiting to order by 2 p.m. The restaurant’s ample underground parking at 240 N. Virgil Avenue should make it easy for patrons lining up for Lin’s chicken, but to make things even easier the restaurant does accept some limited online pre-orders.