As Jeremy Fox was developing the menu for Birdie G’s, he had an especially discerning taste tester: his three-year-old daughter, Birdie Gladys, after whom the restaurant is named. When chef de cuisine Brittany Cassidy asked the toddler what she thought of a noodle dish for the children’s menu, “She said, ‘Not good!’ ” recalls Fox. “She wanted longer pasta.” So, to please Birdie, Cassidy and Fox swapped out the gnocchi sardi, a small, shell-shaped pasta, for fusilli and bigoli.
While Fox is one of the city’s most lauded chefs—his other restaurants include Rustic Canyon—it was important to him that the new place, which opened in June, not be a hipper-than-thou hot spot. “I wanted to make sure that people knew that families were welcome,” he says.
That meant that the James Beard Award nominee put special effort into developing a kids’ menu that would truly appeal to the under-12 set. “I try to channel back to being a really picky eater as a ten-year-old,” says Fox, who was raised in Cleveland. “I wouldn’t eat anything if I saw onions present.”
Birdie G’s kiddie offerings aren’t notable for being obscure or exotic. They’re simply high-quality and well-executed. (So much so that adults sometimes ask if they can order them, which the restaurant will typically allow.) The perfectly crunchy chicken fingers, for example, are made from organic birds, coated with Japanese bread crumbs, and served with house-made mustard.
“We actually wanted to create an intentionally good kids’ menu that wasn’t just an afterthought,” says Cassidy.
While many assume that cooking food that children love means avoiding anything green, Fox doesn’t believe it. The matzo pizza is liberally sprinkled with fresh basil, and there are not one but two salads on offer: The Healthy Yucky Green Salad, a colorful array of farmers’ market veggies with shallot vinaigrette, and the Antipasto Salad with ham, olives, and mozzarella. “It’s something I wish existed when I was a child,” says Cassidy of the latter. “It includes all my favorite things to eat.”
Fox admits that cooking for his young daughter can be humbling. “As soon as you think you’ve got that dish in your back pocket that she’ll always eat, she won’t eat it anymore,” he sighs. But he does have an ability that most parents don’t. The former chef de cuisine at Bay Area fine-dining institution Manresa can plate her food quite elaborately, as if it’s part of a tasting menu. “Even if it’s macaroni and cheese or broccoli and rice,” Fox says, “I’ll make it a real fancy presentation.”
Birdie G’s, 2421 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica.