It’s the simple pleasures that manage to bring together swaths of people from all walks of life, and at Birdies, a fresh donut in the morning and a chicken sandwich in the afternoon does just that. According to the staff, there’s no such thing as a typical customer at this cozy breakfast and lunch spot, which may be partly due to its central South Park location on the corner of Olympic Blvd and Hill St, where businessmen, construction workers, students, and runoff from LA Live all converge for a doughy treat and a quick bite to eat. Cooked up by restaurateur Keith Bae and celebrity chef Jason Harley, Birdies is a chef driven concept with a pervasive, Instagrammable sheen. The solid brick interior brims with natural light shining in from the storefront windows and onto the tiled floors. Behind the glass counter, trays lined with plump artisanal donuts — glazed, coated, colored, infused, and essentially primed for social resharing — are freshly restocked every hour or so with on-trend flavors like horchata, maple bacon, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and blueberry lemon.
“The visual aspect of our food is #1 here,” says Katie Villanueva, pastry chef and general manager. “It’s the fact that it’s Instagram porn.”
Artisanal donuts may be standard foodie fare these days, but Birdies is looking to stand out in a big way. Take, for instance, the brand’s most buzzworthy item: a 24-karat gold leaf donut. Most likely inspired by the brand’s signature gold motif, this Chef Harley creation is made upon request for the paltry sum of $100.
“The gold donut is a 24-karat gold leaf donut made of cinnamon dough,” says Villanueva. “The dough is fried off, dipped in a cream cheese glaze, drizzled in a champagne glaze, then covered in eight sheets of edible gold leaf.” She says that the decadent delicacy is usually made about twice a month for customers who are planning to propose to their girlfriends with a flashy gesture. To finish off the request, many of them ask to sprinkle even more gold flakes on top.
Specialty items aside, Birdies boasts a solid menu selection that is sure to please any crowd. There’s freshly brewed coffee from Intelligentsia, breakfast sandwiches, and in the winter, the kitchen will be introducing a variety of salads. The most popular item on the lunch menu is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich, a free-range chicken breast slathered in ghost chili mayo and topped with a brioche bun. And to get you in the mood for decorative gourd season, the kitchen recently debuted their limited edition fall flavors. Villanueva’s personal favorite is a banana cream raised donut, filled with custard, glazed with sticky caramel.
Chef Harley serves as the face of the franchise, but it’s the close-knit crew, both in the front and back house, that really gives Birdies its hearth and home feel. The low-key neighborhood vibes alone are enough to draw patrons who are impartial to food trends and simply looking for a place to sit, relax, and banter.
“It’s only been 5 months since Birdies has opened, but I want it to grow,” says Villanueva. “It’s such a fun, ambient atmosphere— we never have a dull moment here.”
Written by Sophie He
Photographed by Logan Havens