LAKELAND – If fried chicken doesn’t get you up and singing at LoveBird Almost Famous Chicken, the explosive music of the ’80s certainly will.
Nashville’s quick-serve hot fried chicken restaurant opened on April 26 at the former Starbucks location on South Florida Avenue. Since opening, the restaurant has drawn lines around its building, and Polk County’s popular restaurants and reviews page is littered with reviews – mostly rave.
The idea was born around June 2020. Owners Leah and Jeremy Brumley put the business plan, concept and branding together at home during the pandemic. They signed their building lease in September and started work on the possible opening.
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The restaurant was originally designed to cater for most off-site meals: delivery and drive-thru. They even chose their location with that goal in mind.
“This site, it had all the other elements we needed with our square footage, we wanted to be in the neighborhood, we wanted a good corner, we wanted a good street and it happened that there was a drive-thru” , Jeremy Brumley, 46, said. “We really tried to really take the concept of hot chicken and put it in a drive-thru. It really hasn’t been done before, so I think we were naive enough to think that maybe we could. [do it]. ”
But with the building being so small, the Brumleys decided to do away with that and switch to in-person and take-out-only dinner, turning the drive-thru space into additional parking instead, adding 12 spaces.
Jen McDermott, 46, loved her dining experience at LoveBird. But parking was difficult because the parking lot was “really small” and “very full”.
“We literally had to walk around the building three or four times while waiting for someone to leave to get a seat,” said McDermott, who visited the restaurant with his daughter. “It’s just very limited parking for such a popular location.”
The Brumleys are aware that the parking lot is tight and the lines can be long, but said the restaurant’s success has been incredible.
“It exceeded our expectations for community support and participation,” said Brumley. “When we opened it was a line around the door.… I don’t think we can really explain it.”
And it’s not just the locals arriving, added Leah Brumley.
“We have guests from Orlando and Sarasota. Sebring. We have had Zephryhills,” said Brumely, 48. “As if guests had come from far and wide to try the chicken, so we were a bit overwhelmed and really happy.”
Due to the restaurant’s popularity, the Brumleys are only open for dinner at this time. LoveBird is open 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.
Jeremy Brumley said they were open to possibly extending their hours. For example, the couple are talking “softly” about Saturday brunch, which reportedly includes new menu items such as hot chicken and waffles. But for now, they want to stick with what they can handle.
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“Dinner only for now – we are exceeding all of our expectations of what we expected to do for lunch and dinner,” he said. “[We just want to] make sure we can continue what we want to deliver, what we expect to deliver, and that is great, high quality food and great service. ”
The long lines are likely a result of the size of the restaurant, which can only accommodate 44 guests between indoor and outdoor seating. But customers in reviews say that once they order the food, they get it fast.
“The queue was constant the entire time we were there, but I think these people knew how delicious the food was because no one seemed to care about the wait at all,” McDermott said. .
McDermott grabbed the dark meat chicken plate with dirty fries and jalapeño corn with banana pudding for dessert. She said the Dirty Fries – a restaurant bestseller of seasoned fries, cheese sauce, bacon, green onions and buttermilk ranch – were “unbelievably good.”
But the Brumleys don’t just sell hot chicken. They sell an atmosphere.
LoveBird’s logo is a chicken, a heart and a lightning bolt, accompanied by the restaurant’s iconic colors: hot pink, gold, black and white, often lit by neon signs.
“You look at the hot chicken restaurants… you get the flame, you get the red. It’s pretty simple. All hot chickens have the same feel,” Jeremy Brumley said. “Leah and I are 80’s kids so we’re pretty passionate about music and everything 80’s is pretty much in our DNA so the hot pink was something I felt we could do. ”
As you walk into the restaurant, you can listen to 80s hits while determining whether you want a hot chicken sandwich, baked beans, or chicken fillets.
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“Yes the music is louder and there are a few who don’t like it and there are a lot who like it,” Brumley added. “Our reading list is just as important as any other recipe in our restaurant. We spent as much energy and debate on the reading list as we did on the new Apple Cobbler recipe. So this is a very important part of our brand. ”
The organized vibe definitely worked for McDermott, who chose to dine on his first visit.
“I loved it. It was to me, it was like retro pop and they were playing 80s music,” Brumley said. “I wanted to get in touch with my inner Madonna and get up and sing.”
Despite its popularity, LoveBird Almost Famous Chicken is still standing. Jeremy Brumley says they just need a little patience.
“We’re very grateful for the support from the community. And I know our hours and the line and all of those things have been debated and I just think it’s important for us that everyone understands that our hours reflect what we can offer, what we promise to deliver, and that is high quality food, hand made magnetic service, ”said Brumley.“ I’d rather be exhausted and have no day off than to have all the time in the world. ”
Maya Lora can be contacted with advice or questions at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @mayaklora.