The Bird is a fried chicken sandwich shop with two locations in San Francisco, California. This fast-casual restaurant is famous for its cage-free chicken, freshly baked buns, homemade slaw, and craft beers. While San Francisco can be an expensive city to eat in, The Bird somehow doesn’t break the bank. They pride themselves on affordability without sacrificing quality. Almost every item on the menu is around $10 or less, almost unheard of in San Francisco.
Since opening in 2016, The Bird has gained a following for high-quality ingredients and affordable prices. Because of this, and its central location near downtown, it is common to find a line out front, especially during lunch hours.
As mentioned, The Bird has two locations in San Francisco (SoMa and Hayes Valley). On my recent visit to San Francisco, I stopped by their SoMa location, near the heart of downtown, to try out the chicken sandwiches for myself.
Arrival at The Bird
When I arrived at The Bird for the first time, I was still determining if I was in the right place. There was no signage out front of the restaurant other than a small sign with an image of a fox hanging over the doorway. But, with the line extending from the door, I knew I was in the right place. So, I got in line with everyone else and patiently waited for my turn to order.
After waiting in line for about 10 minutes, I walked through the door and into the restaurant. Since I arrived right before the lunch rush, the line moved much quicker than expected. I noticed how the line doubled only minutes after ordering at the counter. Most of those waiting in line were business workers from the surrounding area. Since business workers have limited time, I knew the service had to be quick. Otherwise, the workers would go elsewhere.
Interior of The Bird
Once inside, I immediately noticed the atmosphere and vibe of the restaurant. The place felt vibrant and alive with the kitchen sounds, the voices of customers, and music playing in the background. All sorts of people were inside, from locals to tourists to business workers.
Though small, the bright and open dining room felt large, with tall ceilings, white subway tiles, and pops of green paint. The place felt clean and modern with a hip, industrial feel. At the same time, the space felt inviting, where I could comfortably enjoy a chicken sandwich and a cold beer.
On the left side of the room was an impressive mural of a fox, like the one hanging over the front door. On the right side were small high-top tables paired with black stools.
Near the front, against the windows, was a small counter seating area with great views outside. While there wasn’t a lot of space at the counter, people seemed to eat quickly and move on. So, it wasn’t difficult to get a seat here. And this is where I sat since I was dining alone on my visit
The cashier was directly in front of me, after passing through the doors and into the restaurant. As The Bird was a fast-casual restaurant, I would place my order with the cashier. When food was ready, I would return here to pick up my food.
The Bird Menu
Hanging above the cashier was The Bird menu. The menu was simple and straight to the point. This menu featured fried chicken options made with free-range dark thigh meat. While simple, the menu had everything you could want.
Options included fried chicken sandwiches, fried chicken, hot wings, and a chicken biscuit. Other than chicken, the menu featured two types of fries, a salad, and apple fritters. One of the best deals on the menu was The “Happier Meal” ($16.75) included a fried chicken sandwich, curly fries, and a beer.
The Bird also also has a Happy Hour. On Monday through Friday, 4:00PM to 7:00PM, you can get $1 off any beer with purchase of a sandwich or wings.
Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich
When I ordered, the cashier asked if I wanted my chicken sandwich classic or spicy. I ordered the Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich ($10.25) without hesitation. A lot went into this sandwich including free-range chicken, a berbere spice blend, house-made apple slaw, pickles, mayo, and a toasted bun.
This sandwich looked beautiful. I hoped it tasted as great as it looked. And, it did. After being tossed in spicy chili oil, the breading glistened under the lights. I enjoyed how the breading was crunchy but not too thick or thin. What I found unique about the breading was that it was gluten-free, not something you usually find with fried chicken sandwiches. But, it worked.
When I took a bite, I tasted a distinct smoky, spicy, rich flavor from the berbere spice blend made with chili peppers and spices including cumin, coriander, and garlic.
At The Bird, like in Nashville, they took the spice blend, mixed it with oil, and tossed the chicken in the spicy mix, ensuring the spice blend stuck to the breading. I found the spice blend to be spicy but not so hot that it overpowered the flavors of the chicken. Each bite left a slow burn in my mouth, keeping me going back for more.
Underneath the breading was a thick piece of chicken thigh. The free-range dark thigh meat was moist and juicy. The meat was so tender that it wanted to fall apart, but it didn’t. It was perfect.
Complementing the spicy, smoky spice blend was a house-made apple slaw and pickles. The slaw, made fresh daily, added a necessary crunchy bite and a sweet, tangy flavor to the sandwich. You can’t have a fried chicken sandwich without some slaw. The same goes for the pickles. These thin, wavy pickles played a crucial role in the success of this sandwich as they added a crunchy, salty, fresh bite.
The last component of this dish was the bun which came from a local bakery in nearby Richmond. These fresh, sweet buns, toasted on the outside and soft on the inside, held up to the last bite. A little slather of mayo added a creamy, rich flavor and brought the sandwich together.
Although the sandwich itself was delicious and needed nothing else, if you’re looking to elevate the flavors and add a spicy kick, make sure to try some of the chili sauce found in bottles on the tables.
With its downtown San Francisco location, The Bird caters to many business workers, especially during lunch hours. Because of this, service must be fast so those can eat and return to the office. The service could not have been any better.
Not only did the food arrive fast, but the food was fresh, hot, and delicious. And, the friendly workers seemed to be enjoying their jobs while helping customers. I could tell that customer service was as important as the food at The Bird.
In recent years, fried chicken sandwiches have become quite the craze. In the past, these sandwiches were mysterious and different. At Popeyes, people waited in line for hours to buy one.
But today, fried chicken sandwiches have become ubiquitous. If you want to succeed, you need to stand out from the pack. And at The Bird, they succeeded in doing this. The free-range chicken, spice blend, fresh buns, and homemade slaw resulted in the ultimate fried chicken sandwich. And all for around $10 in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
With delicious food and quick service, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that The Bird serves the best fried chicken sandwich in San Francisco.
- One of the best fried chicken sandwiches in San Francisco
- Simple menu that uses high quality ingredients
- Modern and clean interior
- Affordable prices
- Friendly service
- Happy Hour
- Limited seating when busy
- Often a line out front
115 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105
GPS Coordinates: 37.78723,-122.40010