La Cañada Flintridge, the quiet, small town just north of Pasadena, is known for some good schools, a well-stocked Trader Joe’s and a Round Table pizza frequented by AYSO kids post-soccer practice. But a non-chain restaurant serving fried chicken and biscuits? Not so much.
So chef Phil Lee, who grew up in nearby La Crescenta, decided to open Honeybird.
It’s a small restaurant on Foothill Boulevard, in the space between Pinkberry and Georgee’s Pizza, serving Southern comfort food and pie.
“I’ve always dreamt of having a restaurant,” said Lee, who has worked at the Water Grill, the Counter and Bashan in Montrose, and considers David LeFevre a mentor. “I’ve worked throughout L.A. and decided to go away from fine dining and do something that was approachable.”
In this case, approachable means a fried chicken recipe Lee has been working on for the last six years that involves a 28-hour wet brine; Brussels sprouts tossed with caramelized shallots; crispy pork belly and tangy vinegar; bacon cheddar biscuits; and banana cream/chocolate/apple/key lime/bread pudding pies.
“There’s something about Southern food that speaks to my soul,” Lee said. “So I went with it."
The fried chicken is served by the piece, in a combo or in a sandwich. The chicken is juicy, and the coating is a deep golden brown, heavily seasoned and extra crunchy. It’s not overly chef-y, or complicated -- just good fried chicken you can get happy with.
Then there are the chicken condiments: Similar to how Tokyo Fried Chicken in Monterey Park has honey and yuzu sauce in honey bear squeeze bottles, you’ll find honey bear squeeze bottles full of honey, hot sauce and spiced honey (hot sauce and honey) at Honeybird. Just use all three.
And when you’re done, you’ll use your sticky fingers to snatch up all the stray crispies around the plate, before you let anyone strip it away from you.
There’s also a honeybird fried chicken sandwich, which comes on a toasted, but still adequately squishy Portuguese bun slathered with gooey pimento cheese. The sandwich is topped with slaw and red Fresno chile and comes with a side of pickles and hot whole grain honey mustard sauce (order this).
For dessert, there’s pie made by Lee’s good friend John Park (formerly of Lukshon, Water Grill and Providence), who is the owner of the Quenelle dessert shops in Burbank and San Marino as well as Ice Que shaved ice in Alhambra. Lee said he will eventually take over the pie-making and bake his own pies for the restaurant, using Park’s recipes.
714 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge, (818) 415-0489, www.honeybirdla.com.