photo credit: Mary Lagier
State Bird Provisions
Updated March 9th, 2022
A lot has changed over the past two years. For one, we can now communicate with our eyebrows alone. Also, the word "virtual" sends our bodies into fight or flight mode. One thing that’s remained the same? State Bird Provisions is still making the most creative small plates in the city.
You probably know someone who loves State Bird Provisions so much they have "quail lover" tattooed across the inside of their finger. Since 2012, the Fillmore restaurant has earned the loyal following equivalent to a feral crowd of Steph Curry fans, and for good reason. A trip here is final-meal-in-the-city worthy, and will probably remain that way for the next twenty decades.
Before the pandemic, servers whisked small plates around the dining room on dim sum-style carts, making for a meal that leaned on sensory overload. The carts are on pause, but that fact won’t take away from the incredible experience—the frequently-changing small plates are as flawlessly executed as ever.
You’ll see Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Jamaican influences, just to name a few, scattered across these dishes. And they’re all pulled off with flair and easygoing style—think a pair of jet black-tinted dumplings with tender duck confit filling, and an herby salad with pork belly that melts in your mouth like cotton candy. Get as many as can fit on your table.
While the small plates are what State Bird Provisions does best, don’t overlook the larger ones, like the eponymous State Bird. This fried quail comes resting atop slow-cooked onions with the subtlest hint of rosemary. And when you bite into the golden-brown skin, you’ll be stunned by the perfect crunch. Your other options include things like a donabe of fragrant brothy beans, and pan-fried corn mochi—this dish, with its expertly-balanced mix of spice and sweetness, will briefly send you into silent reflection. Order at least a couple of these bigger dishes to share, but if you’re wanting to try more (you will), ask about half-portions.
One thing that has changed at State Bird Provisions: there’s now a parklet with plants and glowing lanterns. And just like the buzzy dining room with the rainbow-checkered walls, it’s exactly where you’ll want to be for birthdays and group reunions, or to impress people who are in town for the first time. If you ate here five nights in a row, every week, you'd be fired up every time. You might just be in the market for a new finger tattoo.
The menu at State Bird Provisions changes often, but here’s an idea of what you can expect.
Hog Island Sweetwater Oysters With Kohlrabi Kraut And Sesame
The oysters are dressed up with a tart kohlrabi kraut and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Get at least one to start the meal off.
Duck Liver Mousse With Almond Financiers
The perfect duck liver mousse quenelle is rich, creamy, and has a sweet aftertaste that reminds us of strawberries. Using the tiny, buttery financiers to wipe up the last bit of it off the plate is non-negotiable.
Black Sesame Duck Confit Dumpling
We could easily fill up on a plate of these black sesame-tinted dumplings alone and leave happy.
Smoked Trout-Allium Chip’n’Dip
Housemade chips, smoked trout, and roe come together to make this the best damn chips and dip ever. The dip is creamy and refreshing, and stopping yourself from ordering another round will be an incredible test of self-restraint.
Pork Belly “Salad”
If all salads involved huge chunks of melty pork belly and fish sauce vinaigrette, maybe they wouldn’t have such a bad rap. The mountain of fresh herbs on top adds just enough freshness to make it feel like you’re eating a bowl of greens, even though this dish is about 75% meat. Not that we’re complaining.
CA State Bird With Provisions
You’re having dinner at State Bird Provisions, so of course you have to order the state bird. There’s a monthly-changing version they call the “Cover Bird,” but you can’t go wrong with the original: a beautifully-fried quail served with lemony slow-cooked onions. It’s crunchy, fragrant, and straight-up gorgeous.
The vegetable used to make the mochi changes—it might be carrot, squash or beets (pictured below), but the version with puréed corn is our favorite. The crispy balls are served with thinly-shaved goat gouda, cilantro, Fresno chiles, and roasted corn kernels on top. You won’t find anything else like it in the city.
Ice Cream Sandwich
Like most things here, the ice cream flavors used for these sandwiches change often. But whatever’s on the menu will blow your expectations out of the park. Abandon any semblance of table manners and battle it out with your dinner companions for the last piece.
"World Peace" Peanut Muscovado Milk
If you’ve ever wondered what it would taste like to drink liquid Reese’s Pieces, this is it. The perfect cap to a stunner of a meal.