Interestingly, another Fried Chicken specialist debuts the same week as Howlin’ Ray’s spectacular arrival.
Honeybird is the brainchild of Chef-Owner Phil Lee (not to be confused with Chef Phillip Lee of Top Chef fame), who most notably previously worked at Water Grill. Located along a quiet stretch of Foothill Blvd. a few minutes away from the Rose Bowl, after Howlin’ Ray’s debut, we knew we had to try this out and see how it compared.
Honeybird is a full-on, sit-down restaurant, a much larger space than Howlin’ Ray’s, brightly lit with a minimalist, modern, yet inviting look. For each of our visits there were long lines.
Unsweetened Ice Tea:
Nothing to write home about, a simple, chilled Ice Tea which served its purpose to cool down from the piping hot Fried Chicken.
One thing we appreciated about Honeybird were the variety of Side Dishes to balance out the Fried Chicken.
Honeybird House Salad (Spring Mix, Garden Veg, Sunflower Seeds, HB Vinaigrette):
It was a fresh, clean Mixed Green Salad. Enjoyable and a nice counter to the Chicken.
Mac 'N Cheese (5-Blend Cheesy Mac, Panko, Breadcrumb Streusel):
This was a major disappointment. It tasted like basic pasta shells, with some bits of Cheese inbetween. It was neither very creamy, nor very cheesy. It tasted rather so-so. Definitely skip this.
Honeybird Biscuits (Applewood Smoked Bacon, Sharp Cheddar, Chives, Maple Vanilla Butter):
It sounded pretty great, but it tasted even better! Wow! The Biscuits are seemingly fresh baked to order, piping hot. It is a denser Biscuit than the traditional flaky, fluffy Biscuits you might be anticipating, but what makes Honeybird’s version sing is the outer crust. It’s crisped, with a slight crunch, and the fragrant Biscuit studded with Smoked Bacon, Cheddar and Chives are addicting! But the Vanilla Maple Butter added to each bite makes this even more wonderful! Best Side Dish at Honeybird.
Rapini & Beans (Grilled Rapini, Red Pepper, White Beans, Lemon, Oregano):
I love Rapini, and while the ingredients taste very fresh, this chilled Rapini Salad is unsatisfyingly bitter. I like bitter as well, from Arugula, Bitter Melon and other foods, but in this Salad it was mainly bitter, earthy (from the White Beans) and more bitter, with some savory. It just wasn’t that tasty for any of us.
Honeybird allows you to order their Fried Chicken by the piece (1 piece → 16 piece “Family Pack”), which is nice for flexibility. They use an Organic Chicken, brined for 28 hours and fried to order, which sounds great.
Fried Chicken Breast:
We noticed immediately that it was a darker, heavier crust than Howlin’ Ray’s version, but it smelled great and was piping hot.
It has a satisfying crunch and the Chicken meat inside is still juicy and tender. However the center portion of the Chicken Breast is actually underseasoned (as if the brine didn’t permeate all the way in). Otherwise, pretty tasty.
Fried Chicken Wing:
Their Fried Chicken Wing was delicious. Great crust and nice flavor!
Fried Chicken Thigh:
Reflecting upon our experience (and as you can see from the pics), Honeybird’s Fried Chicken is greasier and oilier than Howlin’ Ray’s. But the Thigh meat was savory, lightly spiced (maybe a bit of Paprika / Cayenne?) and very fresh. It was quite delicious.
But their Thigh meat also showed off a kitchen still refining the frying: There were sections of the Fried Chicken that had flabby skin, and noticeable chunks of subcutaneous fat (unrendered), so those parts weren’t very appetizing.
Another interesting twist / win for Honeybird is that they offer a variety of freshly-baked Pies (from Quenelle (thanks @ilykejordans)), all classic comfort food items from a Banana Cream Pie to Key Lime Pie, Pecan Pie, and more. The Apple Pie (and all of their Pies) are baked with Butter (no Partially-Hydrogenated Oils like many places these days), and it makes their Apple Pie worth trying. It’s not too sweet and tastes of soft, baked Apples and Pie Crust. I think it would taste even better if it were warmed up, perhaps something worth asking them to do next time.
On a 2nd visit, we try their Watermelon Salad (White Balsamic, Cucumbers, Mint, Jicama, Jalapeno):
It’s refreshing, and the bits of Jicama and Jalapeno add a nice twist to the Watermelon and Mint. If the Watermelons were sweeter / fresher (limited by the season), I think this Salad would be their best Side at the restaurant. Still it’s delicious and worth a try as is. I liked it.
Collard Greens (Applewood Smoked Bacon, Brown Sugar, Cider Vinegar):
While some of the other sides might not be quite right, their Collard Greens are fantastic! There’s a smokiness, salinity and a touch of spice. But it’s the freshness of the Collard Greens themselves that shine.
Honeybird Biscuits (2nd Time):
We had to order their Biscuits again, but this 2nd time, they weren’t quite as great as the first time. The outer crust and fragrance was still there, and the Vanilla Maple Butter is amazing, but the interior tasted a bit too bready the 2nd time. Still a great Biscuit.
After having it the first time, I had to go back to Howlin’ Ray’s (3rd visit) to compare, and then we came back and visited Honeybird again another time to really lock in.
As you can see from these pics, it seems the kitchen might still need to work out some kinks. The Chicken is noticeably darker (burnt bits from the oil not being filtered, and perhaps frying at the wrong temperature). It doesn’t taste burnt, but it’s a heavier, greasier, thicker batter crust than Howlin’ Ray’s. But it’s still quite tasty.
Key Lime Pie (Key Lime, Fruity Pebbles, Torched Whip Cream):
Their Key Lime Pie doesn’t hit the heights of the Apple Pie. The Key Lime portion is sufficiently tart and citrusy, but the mass amount of Cream on top tastes mundane and overwhelming.
The menu overall reads like Chef Lee “gets it.” Finding satisfying comfort food, making it fresh to order and offering stuff like Mac ‘N Cheese, Biscuits, Greens, to the Pies (and they have a few local Beers on Tap). While their Fried Chicken is heavier and greasier than Howlin’ Ray’s, the quality of the Organic Chicken and seasoning makes it noteworthy. This is probably the tastiest Fried Chicken in the Pasadena area, and if I couldn’t get Howlin’ Ray’s, I’d eat at Honeybird over other specialists like Honey’s Kettle, Jim Dandy, Tokyo Fried Chicken and the like.
Note: Call ahead to make sure they have Chicken. In both our visits, they sold out of Chicken and most of the food early on.
714 Foothill Blvd.
La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011
Tel: (818) 415-0489