If the new construction along Olympic Avenue is an indicator, there may be a dire need for a place like Birdie’s very soon, if there isn’t already. Just across the street from the newly minted takeout, sleek, newly constructed residential units are stacked like Legos and waiting for their new inhabitants. The same sort of folks who don’t mind spending a few dollars per square foot on living space likely won’t mind spending a few dollars on a single cheffed-up doughnut.
And who’s to complain with doughnuts that look like these. Carefully arranged on sheet racks behind a glass case, they call out in Technicolor, a deep-fried kaleidoscope of purples, browns, pinks and mint greens. There’s an horchata twist doughnut drizzled with dulce de leche and a black-and-white doughnut painted to look like the popular cookie and piped full of cream. There’s a pistachio doughnut scented with lemon and thyme, and a chocolate doughnut that’s as dark as night.
Both cake and yeast raised doughnuts are represented, and if your teeth are already aching you can maintain a slight sense of responsibility and order just one of the adorable silver dollar–sized minis. Because all doughnuts need coffee, a massive La Marzocco machine extracts espresso from Intelligentsia beans.
Birdie’s is chef Jason Harley’s second attempt at the same address. Mabel’s — a fried chicken and waffles restaurant that might have opened in a transitioning neighborhood a bit too early — closed after operating for less than a year. The fried chicken remains, still served on the same black-check-paper–lined takeout containers, but the waffles flew the coup and the space has been remodeled, with a new coat of paint and a hex-tile floor. A cluster of filament bulbs forms a bundle of light above the register and artists have been hired to leave their mark inside and out. It’s a likable backdrop for all of that colorful doughnut frosting.
But while the doughnuts dominate visually when you first walk in, there is a full menu of craggy-crusted fried chicken to be had. Customers can choose between white and dark meat on the bone, boneless tenders and sandwiches. Don’t let the ghost pepper referenced in the Spicy Bird description deter you — the sandwich barely evokes a warm glow, which is cut by cooling coleslaw and a couple of pickle slices. It’s the sort of sandwich you can see capping off an extended drinking session before you pass out at 3 a.m.
Harley says plans to keep Birdie’s open 24 hours on Friday and Saturday were scrapped this past weekend due to staffing issues, but doughnuts and fried chicken should be available to late-night revelers soon, not to mention a few additional locations of the just-opened takeout. Harley and his partners have yet to sign a lease but they’re currently looking at two locations in L.A. and another in New York City.
Birdie's, 314 W. Olympic Blvd., downtown; (213) 536-5720, birdiesla.com.