Birds & Bubbles is a confusing place.
For starters, we're all for hole-in-the-ground eating environments, and it's cute that Birds and Bubbles is located on Forsyth street, a name carrying much history in the chef's home state North Carolina. But there's almost nothing about this basement that exudes the character one might expect from a spot with such a gimmicky name and conceit, which as the name indicates, is all about fried chicken and "bubbly."
But if you're going to make fried chicken and champagne a thing, at least go all-in on the interior decorating so it doesn't feel like the extra $50 you're trying to charge us for a bottle of wine we didn't order is to cover the cost of an immersive experience. Every sip of booze you have at Birds & Bubbles, like the refreshing flowery June Bug cocktail, will please you. But this place is pricey. Are we naive for thinking a restaurant between Delancey and Canal that implores you to drink champagne should offer more than one bottle under $70? Sparkling wine it is, y'all.
Even if you make a reservation, you still might have to wait 30 minutes to be seated. But do everything possible to avoid sitting at the bar. They have about six stools and around ten square feet of dedicated space for this area, yet the bartenders will still find a way to ignore you until you employ violent hand acrobatics to get their attention. The wait staff at the tables, at least, are very nice and honest when helping you figure out how much to order for the table.
Most importantly, the food at Birds & Bubbles is fine. The deviled eggs, the grits and yes, the bucket of chicken are all well-deserved house favorites. But in a post-Root and Bone world, we simply found ourselves looking for a reason to get excited beyond the fact that this is yet another fried chicken concept. And we didn't exactly find it.
At the end of the day, I'm just not sure that Birds & Bubbles is worth your time. We're picky about any attempt to bring Southern dining to the city streets, and there are just so many other places to overspend on fried bird in this town. Then again, there's probably a subset of people who thoroughly enjoy a chicken and champagne pairing, just like there's a subset of people who go to Bikini Brunch at Lavo. Your decision should rely on whether or not you're part of it.
These are tasty and we recommend them as a starter. But I'm always disappointed when chefs don't use deviled eggs as an opportunity for some creative adventure and a dab of sriracha doesn't do that.
Sweet Potato Pie
This is very flavorful and hearty, but we only recommend it if you like your potatoes served room temperature. Don't be deceived by its quiche-like appearance. It's lukewarm.
If you're there with a group, the best bang for your buck is the "Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner." It's a substantial bucket of fried chicken that comes with a bread basket and three sides. You've heard my piece on the chicken, but be warned there isn't much consistency across the pieces you get in the bucket. Pro tip: call first dibs on picking your meat or bring some nunchucks in case your battle for the best piece of bird gets frisky.
Order this. The breads themselves are fine - the jalapeño cornbread was the best one - but the honey butter spread is what makes it all worth wasting valuable stomach real estate on.
Based on our experiences elsewhere in NYC recently, we were quite pleasantly surprised by Sophie's Mac and Cheese. It was crusty on top and creamy in the middle with no ill-advised accoutrements to be seen. The green bean casserole is also pretty good and a refreshing sight of green if you're following the above meat and carbs recommendation to a T. But the onion soufflé uses the term soufflé very loosely. It’s a glorified Bo Round, which is what they should be calling it if they want true Southern folk to give it a shot.