Sunday, December 4 2022

If the relentless hype around Horn Barbecue is any indication, there will be long lines for pitmaster Matt Horn’s first fried chicken restaurant when it opens in West Oakland on January 14.

The restaurant taps into Horn’s nostalgia – for other fried chicken legends, like Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville, and for the food his grandmother and mother cooked for him as a child, like fried cabbage in bacon fat. (The latter is one of the accompaniments served at Kowbird.) For dessert, there are candy apples in homage to the caramel-covered candy her grandmother used to sell at church and in their neighborhood.

Kowbird is relatively small, with around 26 seats inside a U-shaped bar with plenty of napkins and bottles of Tabasco sauce. There is also outdoor seating and takeout.

“We want to keep that homey, southern, diner vibe in what we do,” Horn said.

Here are five key things to know about Horn’s new restaurant before it opens.

chicken sandwich from Matt Horn’s next restaurant in Oakland, Kowbird.”/>

A fried chicken sandwich from Matt Horn’s next restaurant in Oakland, Kowbird.

Provided by Matt Horn

Horn spent months crafting his ideal take on fried chicken

Horn has spent most of the last year testing fried chicken and coming up with its optimal version: juicy and tender with plenty of flavor and crunch. The chicken takes several days to make from start to finish. It is first brined and then air dried before being floured to ensure it adheres to the meat. It’s also fried longer, a Horn tweak made to ensure the chicken stays hot and crispy even in take-out boxes, which are properly ventilated to avoid soggy sandwiches. The fried chicken consists of four sandwiches and is also available as a wing plate. (Horn’s favorite sandwich? The Honey Bird, a sweeter version with a mustard seed and aged honey sauce.)

Kowbird isn’t a Nashville hot chicken restaurant, but it pays homage to the trend

Horn didn’t want to open another hot chicken restaurant in Nashville, which has flooded the Bay Area in recent years. But he couldn’t help but think of the comments of an early fleeting customer who had told him, “I really liked that hot chicken sandwich; I just wish it was warmer. So he put a spicy test your limits sandwich on the Kowbird menu, inspired by Prince’s, the Nashville restaurant credited with creating the dish. Horn’s version gets its spiciness — which, on a scale of 1 to 10, is rated as eight — from fermented and dried Fresno and Carolina Reaper chiles. It comes on a spongy potato bun with homemade sweet pickles and mayonnaise. On Sundays only, customers can also get a special fried catfish sandwich made in Nashville.

Matt Horn's <a class=fried chicken restaurant opens Jan. 14 in West Oakland.”/>

Matt Horn’s fried chicken restaurant opens Jan. 14 in West Oakland.

Provided by Kowbird

Chicken and waffles are on the menu, a nod to another great fried chicken, Roscoe’s in LA

When Horn lived in Los Angeles, his favorite chicken and waffle hangout was the iconic Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. Her Bay Area take: a buckwheat waffle topped with honey butter and puffed buckwheat for extra texture.

There are vegan options for non-meat eaters

Fried oyster mushrooms, a favorite meat substitute at Horn, are the star of Kowbird’s vegan sandwich. The meaty mushroom is topped with a vegan aioli made with mashed white beans and a salad of fresh carrots. For a vegan side, discover the chicory salad dressed in a pumpkin seed vinaigrette.

It is the first of several Horn restaurants that will open this year

After Kowbird, Horn will set its sights on its next two spin-off projects: Matty’s Old Fashioned, its Oakland burger spot that will open in the spring, and Dalia, a taco trailer that will be parked in front of the chef’s barbecue restaurant.

Cowbird. Opening Jan. 14. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday to Sunday. 1733 Peralta St., Oakland. kowbird.com

Elena Kadvany is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @ekadvany

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