Kowbird, a soul-infused, family-owned fried chicken joint from barbecue phenomenon Chef Matt Horn, opens in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, January 14. The second concept under the Horn Hospitality Group umbrella, following his game-changing first brick + mortar restaurant Horn Barbecue, Kowbird pays homage to the Southern comfort food Horn enjoyed with his family as a child.
“For me, fried chicken represents soul and love. Growing up, it was a dish that would bring my family together. Whether after church or in the backyard with friends, it was always centered around love.” says Horn. “To open a fried chicken concept in my home of Oakland is personal to me, it bridges family, love, soul, and good food.”
Horn also wants the community to feel at home when at the restaurant. Opening in the former Pretty Lady diner, the design of Kowbird pays tribute to both the foodways of the South and the storied history of space. Horn maintained original elements throughout, from the classic U-shaped counter from the 1940s, to the funky green tiles in the kitchen, while adding murals and images of black farmers in the South, an homage to Horn’s family roots. With a nod to the classic diner, guests are encouraged to order at the register and enjoy their meal indoors around the counter, take their meal to go, or enjoy in Kowbird’s outdoor seating space.
CRISPY, CRUNCHY, CRAZY GOOD CHICKEN
Matt Horn keeps the menu at Kowbird straightforward, bringing his renowned commitment to excellence to fried chicken, and putting his touch on featured dishes from his childhood.
The menu will feature Matt Horn’s signature buttermilk fried chicken in various versions, all served on a potato bun and accompanied by house-made pickles. Variations include the traditional Southern Bird, the Honey Bird, finished in a pickled mustard seed-honey sauce, the Early Bird, featuring chicken thighs, Southern-style gravy and a fried egg, and finally, the Hot Bird, finished and dusted with dried, fermented chilis, which Horn describes as HOT, but not unbearable.
Non-meat-eaters need not fear the chicken; Horn has created an Oyster Mushroom Vegan Sandwich, made with crispy fried oyster mushrooms with special seasonings, a plant-based “aioli” and carrot slaw.
Beyond the bun, the Kowbird menu will include a standout Chicken & Buckwheat Waffle offering, featuring original or hot chicken served with a puffed buckwheat waffle and topped with honey butter, a Wings & Fries plate, and, on Sundays, a specialty Fried Catfish Sandwich, original or Nashville Hot.
Side dishes bring together classic comforts and Southern indulgences, including Fried Cabbage with Country Bacon, a fresh Chicory Slaw with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette & Citrus (v), a creamy white Mac & Cheese made with Havarti, Provolone and Gouda, dusted with crispy dehydrated chicken skins, Fried Gizzards and Steak Fries. For dessert, bite into a crowd-pleasing Candy Apple or Salted Caramel Apple w/ Peanuts, or opt for a classic slice of Pecan Pie. The menu is rounded out with house-made lemonade and sweet tea, with beer, root beer and cream soda all on tap.
Taking his commitment to quality and flavor one step further, Horn is also working on setting up his own apiary at the restaurant, bringing in Bay Area bees to source the restaurant’s own honey.
CHEF MATT HORN
Matt Horn is a leading authority on barbecue, drawing acclaim from barbecue aficionados and media across the nation with his own California-style. Horn grew up in Fresno, California, where he spent much of his free time honing his signature barbecue technique in his grandmother’s backyard, learning about the family’s Southern roots and teaching himself through a rigorous process of R&D. A self-driven entrepreneur, Matt got his start popping up wherever he had the opportunity to serve his barbecue – from breweries to wineries to churches and farmer’s markets, quickly becoming beloved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the process. In October 2020 he opened his first restaurant, Horn Barbecue, in Oakland, which drew instant acclaim from loyal fans and both local and national media. In 2021, Matt Horn was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in America, and Horn Barbecue was named one of Esquire Magazine’s Best New Restaurants in America and landed a coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand designation. Matt is the founder of the Horn Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to food equity and social justice, which daily feeds people in need free lunches of barbecued brisket and other dishes. Spring 2022 will welcome the release of Horn’s first cookbook: Horn Barbecue: Recipes And Techniques From A Master of The Art of Barbecue. He lives with his family in the Oakland area.
ABOUT HORN HOSPITALITY GROUP (HHG)
Founded by renowned Chef Matt Horn, HHG is the parent company of a group of restaurant ventures and creative partnerships in the Bay Area and beyond, building with a commitment to black excellence and purpose. Under the culinary leadership of Chef Matt Horn, all HHG restaurants will integrate the traditions of Southern foodways with the palate-changing innovations of California cuisine.