Despite some dedicated regulars, Mabel’s downtown never really attracted the crowds that its juicy and oh-so-crispy fried chicken deserved—the South Park spot that opened last summer closed in less than a year. Now, chef-owner Jason Harley has returned in the same location with Birdies, a doughnut and coffee joint that—like a few strip mall doughnut shops in L.A. have done before—happens to serve fried chicken.
“It’s really about the coffee and the doughnuts—we lead with the coffee and follow with the doughnuts—but the fried chicken, everyone knows me for that, too, so I had to have it, and I’m so glad we kept it,” says Harley, adding that the price point (around $3.00 for a doughnut, $7-$10 for chicken items) is probably more conducive to the area.
The new fast-casual concept looks like an upscale doughnut shop at first glance. There’s a glass case filled with the kind of inventive flavors Angelenos are currently crazy for; Harley offers a range of yeast and cake doughnuts, like a horchata twist drizzled with dulce de leche, cinnamon toast streusel, and a filled black-and-white-cookie-inspired number. All are made from scratch and hand rolled. They’re also using King Arthur Flour, which Harley says creates a lighter texture. To go with the doughnuts is a full coffee bar menu using Intelligentsia coffee.
There’s a full menu of chicken, too. Customers can choose from dark or white meat pieces as well as chicken tenders, wings, and sandwiches. The Spicy Birdie is a fried breast sandwiched between a homemade bun and dressed with ghost pepper mayo, pepper-jack cheese, cured pickles, and cole slaw. The flavor comes from a special marinade, and the secret to the crispiness, according to Harley, is his Henny Penny pressure cooker, which cooks the chicken on a rack as opposed to free-dunking it in oil. “It doesn’t float where all the crust falls off,” he says. “This way the rack [holds it], and it comes out perfect every time.” There’s also a breakfast sandwich that includes an egg and apple wood smoked bacon.
Currently, Birdies is open Monday-Thursday 6:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m., 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays, and until 8:00 p.m. on Sundays. The goal is to turn the South Park location into a daily 24-hour operation, which Harley believes will be possible as development and population increases in South Park. He and his partners are also looking to expand Birdies into a mini-chain straight away. Early plans for second flagship store, perhaps in Larchmont Village or Silver Lake, are already in the works, and they have their eye on a New York location, too.
Birdies, 314 West Olympic Boulevard, 213-536-5270