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Nightshade chef Mei Lin is opening a Sichuan hot chicken spot in Silver Lake next month

Daybird fried chicken sandwich
(Dylan + Jeni)

There’s always money in the chicken stand.

Mei Lin, the chef behind Arts District restaurant Nightshade, plans to open a fast-casual restaurant serving Sichuan-spiced hot chicken in Silver Lake early next month.

Lin said the new concept, Daybird, was in development with business partner Francis Miranda long before COVID-19 arrived but took on more relevance as restaurants shifted their focus toward takeout and delivery service.

“I knew I wanted to do something casual [for my next restaurant], and I spent a lot of time figuring out what could appeal to a large amount of people,” she said. “I think it’s safe to say everybody loves fried chicken.”

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Daybird’s menu will feature fried chicken sandwiches and chicken tenders coated in a fiery seasoning mix based on what Lin used for her popular Szechuan hot quail at Nightshade, a flagship dish that riffed on Nashville-style hot chicken.

“There’s about 30 different spices in there,” the “Top Chef” winner said. “It’s got dried Thai bird chiles, Sichuan peppercorns, white peppercorns, fennel, cumin, cardamom — there’s some umami from the porcini mushroom powder we use.”

The chicken (as well as vegan-friendly fried cauliflower) will be available in three heat levels — mild, medium and hot — and served with dipping sauces such as habanero ranch and hot honey. A selection of sides, such as cornbread with pimento cheese, poppy seed slaw and fries, will be available. Sandwiches will come on milk bread buns.

Mei Lin and business partner Francis Miranda
Mei Lin, left, and business partner Francis Miranda at Daybird.
(Dylan + Jeni)
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“It’s food that’s quick, carries well, and you don’t necessarily have to leave your house to pick it up. It’s meant to be accessible,” she said.

Plus, there’s the crunch factor. Lin said she played around with different flours and starches to create a crust that would stay crisp longer since the chicken would most likely not be eaten immediately. “I can safely say it stays crunchy for about an hour,” she said.

Daybird will offer delivery and takeout only to start, but Lin hopes that she’ll be able open the minimalist strip mall space, a former pizzeria on Virgil Avenue, for dine-in service in the future.

As for Nightshade, which temporarily closed in March after briefly offering takeout service, Lin said there is currently no timeline for the restaurant’s reopening, though she has been able to hire some of Nightshade’s furloughed kitchen staff at Daybird.

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“What we were doing at Nightshade doesn’t make sense financially right now, but we’re trying to figure that out,” she said. “It’s a work in progress.”

Daybird, 240 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, daybirdla.com


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